The Dalriada Hospital in Ballycastle is to lose six beds in a re-structuring plan announced this week by the Northern Trust.
The Trust say the move has been prompted by under usage due to a reduction in demand and health officials say they “currently agreeing” with local GPs a new model of medical support for patients.
At present, the hospital provides 32 beds, 20 general rehabilitation and 12 Regional Multiple Sclerosis respite beds.
News of the reduction was first revealed by Ulster Unionist Councillor Joan Baird who told the Times that her information suggested that the hospital could lose a total of eight beds between now and the end of March.
Councillor Baird said her understanding was that the move was due to budgetary constraints, but this has not featured in the statement issued by the Trust over the reduction plan.
In the statement, a spokesperson for the Trust said: “The occupancy of this unit has averaged 71% since April 2013, which equates to average usage of 23 beds.
“This level of occupancy has been due to a reduction in demand for beds in this facility and the decrease in the use of the MS beds by the other Trusts.
“The Trust is currently agreeing with local GPs a new model of medical support for patients using these beds which we believe will better optimise the use of the beds, ensuring there is greater emphasis on patients reaching their full rehabilitation potential.
“We anticipate that the new medical arrangements coupled with proactive rehabilitation will help patients return to their own homes in a timely way thus reducing the length of time patients need to stay in these types of beds.
“The Trust is therefore confident that within the revised compliment of 26 beds, the demand for the use of this facility can be met.
“The situation will be kept under review and can be altered should it become necessary to do so.”
Commenting on the statement, Cllr. Baird challenged the figures issued by the Trust on occupancy levels and said as far as she was concerned the hospital was “always full.”
Cllr. Baird has tabled a motion due for discussion at Monday night’s meeting of Moyle council in which she has asked for the Trust officers to appear in front of the council to explain the situation.
“I will be looking for answers to this and, in particular, when did talks start with GPs on the issue,” Cllr. Baird said.