The Health Minister Edwin Poots has praised Ian Paisley, the MP for North Antrim in Stormont for running a “vigorous campaign” concerning the Causeway hospital on the North Coast.
Mr Poots said that Mr. Paisley appears to be doing all the lobbying for the hospital on their behalf.
He said: “I greatly appreciate the fact that the Member of Parliament for North Antrim is putting up a very vigorous campaign very regularly. In fact, he tortures me about the Causeway Hospital. If the Member of this House for North Antrim were in as regular contact, perhaps more would be done for the residents in that area.”
The issue came about after Mr. Paisley raised the matter in Westminster during a debate over the European Working Time Directive (EWTD), which is part of the EU health and safety legislation which lays down requirements in relation to working hours, arrangements for night workers, rest periods and annual leave.
The directive, which was brought into UK law in 1998 has seen a gradual reduction of hours that NHS doctors can now legally work in a week. It has led to an interim 58 hour week in 2004 being reduced to 48 hours in August 2009. It is now thought that 400,000 surgical hours are lost each month due to the EWTD.
Paisley spoke of his anger in the debate, specifically in relation to the Causeway Hospital:
“The Causeway hospital in my constituency faces losing its accident and emergency department, which is the only such facility in one of the most rural parts of Northern Ireland. The area has one of the largest inflows of tourists at certain times of the year. Why is the department going to close? It is going to close not because it is useless or there is no demand, but because of its over-reliance on locums, which is a direct result of the European working time directive.
The directive is a complete disaster in terms of providing a service to the people who need it the most – the vulnerable and the sick. It is a complete disaster to the physicians who are the lifeblood of the NHS; and a complete disaster to the future of our hospital structure.”
After the issue was raised Mr. Paisley said: “This action is about one thing, saving one of my constituency’s most valued and relied upon hospitals from closure because of the EWTD.
“I would encourage all MLAs in North Antrim and beyond to help me try and save this hospital which is used by so many people from all over the area. I have been campaigning relentlessly with the Health Minister for this to happen and I believe the support of other politicians would go a long way in helping preserve one of our most vital hospitals on the North Coast.”