Trade union UNISON has vowed to take their fight to save the Dalriada Hospital from closure to Stormont.
In the week since the announcement by the Northern Trust that the MS unit in the Ballycastle hospital will close “temporarily” at the end of this month, a major campaign to overturn the decision has been launched.
Almost 1,000 people packed into the Sheskburn Centre in Ballycastle last Monday night for a public meeting and on Saturday the seaside town was brought to a standstill as hundreds of people turned out for a white line protest.
Members of the public service union UNISON have been staging a daily picket outside the Dalriada Hospital since the announcement.
UNISON representative Kim Hall told the Times that staff at the hospital had been “overwhelmed” by the public response to the protests.
“We were going to keep the picket going every day from Monday to Friday but the support from the public has been so fantastic that we will now be keeping it going at the weekends too,” said Kim.
“We have had messages from the local churches and businesses. Local chippies are sending food up to the picket line, we have had bakeries sending up boxes of buns, it has been fantastic.
“We have petitions circulating all around Ballycastle and the Glens but also right out to Portrush and Portstewart, Ballymoney, Kilrea and Bushmills and many other places.
“We have spoken to our MLOAs and we have been trying to get the Health Minister Jim Wells to come down here to Dalriada Hospital to see the facility here but if he won’t come to Ballycastle, we will go to Stormont.
“We have spoken to the staff in the Robinson Hospital in Ballymoney and the Causeway Hospital in Coleraine and they are dreading the fact that Dalriada patients are going to be sent to them as they are already under huge pressure.
“They are really worried about patient safety and about the care they can give to the patients.
“The closure of Dalriada is just going to put added pressure on staff.”