NORTH Antrim MLA, David McIlveen, has this week called on the Health Minister and civil servants within the department to ensure that a more flexible approach is taken in any decisions regarding the future of the Causeway.
Speaking in the Assembly, Mr. McIlveen said that the particular location of the Causeway, coupled with the floating population of tourists and the pressures already on Antrim Area Hospital, means that the case to retain the Causeway should be based on more than just facts and figures.
Speaking after the debate, Mr. McIlveen commented:
‘This issue of huge consequence to everyone who lives, holidays and visits the area. The particular interest on this subject was highlighted by the range of impassioned views from MLAs from many different constituencies who spoke in the Assembly debate. I was particularly grateful to have the opportunity to speak on this, primarily to protect the interests of my constituents living in the area, but also as I have felt very strongly that this hospital services a very particular need, unlike almost any other hospital in the country.
In addition to the permanent population base in the area, 750,000 people each year come to North Antrim, just to visit two of our tourist attractions: the Giant’s Causeway and Carrick-A-Rede. Tens of thousands of people also holiday there. We have to be careful that we do not base our consideration of the Causeways hospital just on the static population around it. Doing so would tell only a very small part of the story of what the Causeway does and of the large number of people it serves. It is imperative that we look at the bigger picture and tailor our approach accordingly.
‘As well as the particular demographic that the Causeway serves, I believe the Regional Development Minister must look into the infrastructure surrounding the Causeway Hospital. There are already instances where patients have to go from the Causeway to Antrim Area hospital.
‘The infrastructure in the area is so bad that I have had doctors come up to me when I am doing my grocery shopping to tell me about it. They say that the current situation is unworkable. Even now they have indicated that due to the state of the road, they are hard pressed to keep patients alive on that journey, even in blue-light ambulances. There is a proposal to move all emergency services to Antrim Area hospital between the hours of midnight and 7am. I feel that we would be tempting fate and playing a game of Russian roulette with peoples’ lives. This is simply not a workable approach.
‘I hope the Department of Health, as well as the Roads Minister, take a long hard look at the entire state of affairs at the Causeway, to provide an efficient, long lasting and workable service for the unique demographic in the area.’