A&E closure fears “unfounded”: MLA

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FEARS that Causeway Hospital’s Accident and Emergency Unit is to close are based on nothing more than “unsubstantiated rumours”, according to Coleraine MLA, David McClarty.

Angry that speculation surrounding the local hospital could cause unnecessary panic in the local community and tarnish its safe tourist image, the Independent Assembleyman hit out at the “bad news” peddlers.

And he revealed that he had in his possession “an unequivocal letter” from the Northern Trust which sets out in black and white its commitment to the emergency department staying in Coleraine.

Speaking to The Coleraine Times this week, Mr. McClarty said he was forced to speak out after news reached his ears of growing concern in the local community.

“It’s not just the fear that people are going to lose their jobs but that the elderly and very young would have to travel dangerously long distances to receive acute A&E care,” he said.

He revealed that “the rumours were flying around” after a draft report was released by the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) recommending cuts to acute hospital services. Whilst Coleraine was never mentioned in report, it was picked-up by the media and the rumour mill “went into overdrive,” he said.

But councillor McClarty has now taken possession of a letter from Sean Donaghy, Chief Executive of the Northern Health and Social Care Trust, in which he states very clearly the Trust has no plans to “change or reduce acute services at Causeway Hospital.”

The letter reads: “I note that you have written to the Chairman and Non Executive Directors of Trust Board expressing concern regarding services at Causeway Hospital.

“You will know that the constant process of querying the future of services at Causeway is causing anxiety amongst staff and the public alike.”

It concludes: “Trust Board would reiterate its previous public assurance that there are no plans to change or reduce acute services at Causeway Hospital. This includes emergency services”.

Happy to quash the rumours, Councillor McClarty said it was understandable that both hospital staff and the general public were concerned. But he stressed that both the Trust and Government knew it was “an essential service” therefore talk of fighting to save A&E was “a bit like putting a hose on to a building before a fire even starts!”

“This is a huge tourist area,” he said. “We have large crowd events like the NW200 and the Air Show. God forbid that something were to happen at one of these but that’s one of the reasons acute hospital services were placed here in the first place. It was true then and it’s true now.”

“There is a tendency with some people to talk the area down when we should be talking it up,” he added. “I hope this finally puts the rumour mongers out of business.”