Trust denies Paisley’s claims on Causeway A&E closure

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NORTH Antrim MP Ian Paisley has told MPs that the accident and emergency department at Coleraine’s Causeway Hospital is to close — but the local health trust has denied that it plans to cut the service.

The DUP MP made the claim in a Commons debate about the European Working Time Directive, which restricts how long staff such as doctors can work, and said that “it [the

Causeway’s A&E] is going to close . . . as a direct result of the European Working Time Directive”.

Just last month Mr Paisley’s DUP colleague, Health Minister Edwin Poots, told the Assembly that there are “no plans to alter its [the Cause-way’s] acute status”.

Although the definition of an acute hospital is open to interpretation, it tends to include 24-hour emergency care and consultant-led maternity cover.

For instance, the City Hospital in Belfast remains a major hospital specialising in diseases but does not have A&E or maternity cover and therefore is no longer seen as an

acute hospital.

When asked about the issue, Stormont’s Department of Health referred the News Letter to the Northern Health and Social Care Trust. A spokeswoman for the trust said:

“The trust has no plans, at the moment, to close A&E.”

When told of Mr Paisley’s comments, the spokeswoman said: “I know we have no plans to close A&E.”

Speaking in a Westminster Hall debate on Thursday afternoon, Mr Paisley said: “The Causeway Hospital in my constituency faces losing its accident and emergency department, which is the only such facility in one of the most rural parts of Northern Ireland.

“The area has one of the largest inflows of tourists at certain times of the year. Why is the department going to close?

“It is going to close not because it is useless or there is no demand, but because of its over-reliance on locums, which is a direct result of the European Working Time Directive.

“It is a complete disaster for our rural hospitals. It is a complete disaster in terms of sickness leave among doctors.

“The report of the Royal College of Physicians, which was published in April 2010, shows that sickness leave has soared since the European Working Time Directive was introduced.”

On Thursday it emerged that the Health Service is still not meeting its own A&E targets. Only 71 per cent of accident and emergency patients were seen within four hours - short of the 59 per cent target.