The Health Minister Jim Wewlls refused to be drawn on the question of postoponing the closure of the Dalriada Hospital.
Mr Wells was responsind to an oral question tableed by North Antrim Sinn Fein MLA Daithi McKay in the Assembly last week.
Mr McKay aslled what provision would be made for Multiple Sclerosis (MS) respite when services at Dalriada Hospital Ballycastle are closed.
Minister Wells said: “As part of its contingency plans, the Northern Trust has proposed the temporary closure of respite beds in the Dalriada Hospital, Ballycastle for sufferers of multiple sclerosis. I regret that the trust has had to take that action.
“As a consequence of the Budget pressures, it would simply not be possible to maintain the current levels of service provision in the absence of the entire required funding of £130 million right across HSC. However, I assure Mr McKay that the trust will endeavour to minimise the impact on front line patient care.
“Key workers are therefore arranging to meet service users and families over the coming days to ascertain their specific needs and identify the providers that would provide the best alternative to Dalriada Hospital. That will include the consideration of individual and group bed-based provision. Where service users would prefer to have direct payments made so that they can make their own arrangements, that will also be an option.
“Respite services to MS patients will still be provided, and everyone who requires respite will receive it. The trust will be working with everyone involved to ensure that service users’ assessed needs are central to the process moving forward. The trust has also assured me that respite care for anyone who has been booked in for November will be honoured and that there will be no change to the booking.
“My Department will monitor the situation closely over the coming months to ensure that the service provided to MS sufferers in the Northern Trust continues to meet the needs of the local population.”
However the Sinn Fein MLA called the answer “utterly pathetic” and asked the Minister if he would postpone the closure?
Mr Wells said that he had already met with North Antrim MP Ian Paisley Jnr and North Antrim DUP MLA Mervyn Storey as well as Ballycastle GPs Dr Mary McLister and Dr Martin O’Kane.
“I have undertaken to interrogate the Northern Trust on the points raised with me,” said Minister Wells.
“Certainly, very valid concerns have been raised about the whole issue, and I intend to make absolutely certain that the Northern Trust has made the right decision on this occasion.
“I also need to emphasise the fact that I have to balance the books by the end of this financial year. We are £70 million short of doing that, and therefore each of the five trusts, not just the Northern Trust, has had to make very difficult decisions.
“I have received representations from Bangor, Whiteabbey, Armagh and from throughout Northern Ireland on similar difficult decisions, but this is where we find ourselves as far as budgets are concerned.”