Council representatives visit Health Minister

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A delegation from Coleraine Borough Council travelled to Stormont on Wednesday to meet the Minister for Health, Mr Jim Wells.

The delegation led by the Mayor of Coleraine, Councillor George Duddy met Mr Jim Wells to discuss how Council could work in partnership with the Minister and the Northern Trust to ensure that the health and well-being of the citizens of the Borough are at the forefront of the Ministers plans for the reform and modernization of healthcare in Northern Ireland.

Chief Executive of Coleraine Borough Council, Mr Kieran Doherty, outlined Council’s ambition for working in a strategic context to establish a vision for the future of the Causeway Hospital.

Minister Wells accepted that there has been much speculation about the future of the Causeway Hospital and the plans to reform health care provision in Northern Ireland. The Minister stated that Sir Liam Donaldson’s review into Northern Ireland’s Health Service, which was published on 27 January 2015, was a means whereby we can start the debate. Sir Liam’s report has said there are too many hospitals for the 1.8 million population and that elsewhere in the UK, a population of 1.8 million people would likely be served by four acute hospitals, not the ten that Northern Ireland has.

Councillor Norman Hillis spoke about the population which the Causeway Hospital serves and stressed to the Minister the impact of any loss of acute services to the area. Councillor Hillis stated “we are also party leaders on the new Causeway Coast & Glens Council, we accept there is going to be rationalization but the Minister knows the geography of the area we serve and the rural isolation that is experienced by large parts of that population”.

Mr Kieran Doherty outlined to the Minister 3 key areas on which Council is keen to engage:

1. To secure a long term acute hospital service, including a 24 hour Emergency Department within Causeway Hospital.

2. To work together strategically to identify a long term centralized service for Causeway Hospital, aiming for the Causeway to become a Centre of Excellence in specialist areas

3. To support the Northern Health and Social Care Trust to develop a long term strategy for health care within the Causeway Coast & Glens area.

Alderman Maura Hickey outlined that Coleraine Borough Council has recently met with the Chief Executive of the Northern Trust, Dr. Tony Stevenson, and requested that the Minister add his support to ongoing engagement and partnership working between Council and Dr. Stevens to further the discussion around the future provision of health care for the Citizens of the Causeway area. The Minister affirmed his support of this process and welcomed the new Council as a vehicle to start the dialogue.

Councillor Yvonne Boyle said council is committed to work with all stakeholders in securing an outcome that reflects the unique nature and needs of the Causeway Coast, especially service users and staff. She also stated that the Council would encourage a wider debate and involve all sections of the community in the process.

The Mayor of Coleraine, Councillor George Duddy formally invited the Minister to visit the Causeway Hospital and add his support to continued engagement and partnership working between the Trust and Council. Minister Wells accepted the formal invitation and indicated that he would ensure the visit was arranged in the near future.

Chief Executive of Coleraine Borough Council, Kieran Doherty commented, “Coleraine Borough Council’s primary aim is the health and well-being of its residents. We discussed with Minister Wells Council’s desire to work in partnership with the Northern Health and Social Care Trust to bring the best service of care to the people of the North Coast.

“Council are committed to working in partnership with the trust, to identify a long term centralized service for Causeway Hospital. Whilst we appreciate the Minister’s financial constraints, Council believe the suggestions put to the Minster are both realistic and essential in providing future adequate care for our residents. I’d like to thank him for today’s meeting on behalf of Council and look forward to working together in the future.”