The Mayor of Larne has raised concerns that the Northern Trust is withdrawing services from the Moyle Hospital, Inver House and Lisgarel.
Mayor of Larne Councillor Martin Wilson told The Times that he believed outpatient appointments were being allocated to other hospitals farther afield, despite The Moyle having consultants available in the necessary specialisms.
He told The Times: “I’m concerned about the perception that the Northern Trust are withdrawing services from the Moyle hospital.
“When people are being referred to appointments they are not being offered the option of going to the Moyle despite those services still being provided there.
“They are having to go to the hospital at Antrim, and people are even being asked to go to the Causeway Hospital in Coleraine.”
Councillor Wilson stated that the issue of people being referred for treatment elsewhere was also a problem at the 18-bed Inver House intermediate care unit, which provides rehabilitation and palliative care, and at Lisgarel residential home, which is run by the Northern Trust.
He continued: “People coming out of hospital are not being given the option of Inver House.
“They are being told to go to other places.
“There are beds available but they are only getting into Inver House when their families insist that their loved ones are placed there.
“For people in Larne it is very important that they are able to access services in Larne while they are still there.”
Councillor Wilson, who is the Chairman of Larne Borough Council’s health sub-committee, said that he was worried the Northern Trust was trying to “close the service in Larne by stealth.”
He continued: “There is a perception that there is a concerted effort to move services away.
“I have a fear that by not promoting Larne services they can say that people don’t want to use Larne, which is not true.
“Families who find themselves in that situation shouldn’t take the first option the hospital gives.
“They should insist on the Moyle hospital, Inver House intermediate care unit or Lisgarel residential home.
“Put the pressure on the trust.
“You hear about swinging cuts which makes it very easy to remove services if they can do it under the blanket of austerity.
“I want the services to be retained in Larne and for people to avail of the services if and when they need them.”
In response, the Northern Trust has revealed it plans to consult on its long-term intermediate care strategy in the near future, including Inver House.
A spokesperson said there were “no imminent plans to change current service provision and the Trust is committed to providing intermediate care services.”
The spokesperson added that the Trust is not currently trying to reduce the number of Consultant appointments offered at the Moyle and there were “no current plans to downturn delivery of services” at outpatient clinics.
Regarding the future of Inver House, the spokesperson stated: “The Trust have actively engaged with local GPs to maximise the use of Inver to include those who reside in other areas of the Trust. This has resulted in the occupancy of Inver beds being maximised. There is no policy to send those with a Larne address to other areas of the Trust. Every effort is made to place patients in intermediate care facilities as close to home as possible.”
The spokesperson said that Lisgarel is part of a nationwide consultation by the regional HSCB which has stopped permanent admissions to statutory care homes in the Northern Trust. They added: “Every effort is made to place individuals as close as possible to home and as the Trust needs to maximise the use of all beds, clients from other areas may also be placed here.”