East Antrim MLA Roy Beggs has expressed his disappointment after learning the Northern Health Trust is seeking the permanent closure of the Whiteabbey Hospital Minor Injuries Unit.
The UUP Westminster candidate had asked the outgoing Health Minister Jim Wells when the temporary closure of Whiteabbey MIU was due to end and what plans have been made to reinstate the service.
In response, Mr Wells stated: “Financial planning for 2015/16 is on-going and all Health and Social Care Trusts must deliver substantial savings in order to live within budget and meet rising demand across HSC services.
“The Northern Health and Social Care Trust has proposed in its savings that the temporary closure of Whiteabbey Hospital Minor Injuries Unit will continue in 2015/16. The savings plan also indicates that the Trust will consult on a permanent closure of the Minor Injuries Unit.”
Mr Beggs said he and the staff at Whiteabbey Hospital had “feared from the start that permanent closure of the MIU was always going to be the inevitable outcome”.
He added: “Since the announcement was made last year of the temporary closure the unit has been effectively stripped out. The outcome of any consultation on the permanent closure of the unit seems to be a foregone conclusion.
“It’s clear the Minister and the Northern Health Trust have already made their decision so they shouldn’t even waste people’s time on even pretending to consult. Both the Minister and the Department have acted shamefully throughout this entire affair.
“The decision shows no consideration of the pressures on local A&E services and the inability to meet the four-hour waiting targets. Rather than closing local alternatives to A&E, such as the MIU in Whiteabbey, we need additional options to avoid patients adding to A&E waiting times.”
The UUP representative called for investment in local GP services and local health and care centres.
“East Antrim is one of the few constituencies not to have a A&E unit nor minor injuries unit,” he added.
“Clearly with the inadequate local health facilities and many ageing health centres, there is an urgent need for health investment in modern health and care facilities right across East Antrim. Such facilities would enable GPs and allied health professionals to treat more patients and take pressure away from our already overburdened A&E units in Belfast and Antrim.”