Sunday, May 19, 2024

HOSPITAL CAMPAIGNERS ISSUE LEGAL CHALLENGE WARNING

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CAMPAIGNERS have warned health bosses they are prepared to mount a legal battle to save Bangor and Newtownards Minor Injuries Units from closure.

 

Independent Unionist Alex Easton urged the Trust head not to force campaigners ‘down the route of a judicial review because that is how far we are willing to go to try and stop this’.

 

His warning came as campaigners presented a 19,033-strong petition to Roisin Coulter, chief executive of the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust.

 

Earlier this year Trust bosses proposed to scrap both the MIUs in Ards and North Down in favour of building a new consultant-led urgent care facility alongside the Emergency Department at the Dundonald hospital site.

 

However, such is the strength of public feeling against the proposed closure the borough’s biggest community petition signed by nearly 20,000 people was also presented to Department of Health Permanent Secretary Peter May last week.

 

The petition calls on the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust to ‘immediately withdraw’ its controversial closure plans in a bid to reduce ‘further pressure on the already overstretched Ulster Hospital’.

 

There has been widespread support across the political spectrum for the campaign to keep the MIUs open except for the Alliance Party which has backed the Trust’s bid to open the new urgent care facility.

 

Elected representatives are now calling on the Trust to end the ‘great deal of distress’ felt by local residents by publishing the consultation findings and announcing their decision on the MIUs future as soon as possible.

 

Mr Easton said: “We are willing to work with the Trust for positive outcomes but we need to be met halfway. The Trust needs to take time to listen, reflect and stop, don’t make us go down the route of a judicial review because that is how far we are willing to go to try and stop this.”

 

He said: “I am pleased that all the political parties with the exception of the Alliance Party have clearly demonstrated and supported the call to keep both the Ards and Bangor Minor Injury units open and I can only thank them for their support.

 

“The Trust launched a 12-week public consultation on the future provision of urgent and emergency care services in the Ards and North Down area. A total of 388 responses were received and I believe that the vast majority of these are opposed to the closures.

 

“The Trust is currently analysing responses and feedback received and this shall be summarised in a Consultation Outcome Report which will be presented to the Trust’s board and published in due course.”

Bangor Central councillor Ray McKimm pledged campaigners would carry on their fight to ‘ensure the services stay in the community’ even if the Trust decided to press ahead with the closure proposals.

 

“I am looking forward to getting the data back. The community can be reassured that even if they massage the data to suit their goal it is not over. We can do a lot more to ensure the services stay in the community.”

 

Said Mr McKimm: “We would urge the Trust to bring forward the information as soon as possible as it is causing a great deal of distress to those people who have used these services successfully. We are told over and over again the value of these community based services from occupational therapy to palliative care and these services belong in the community.”

 

A Trust spokeswoman said comments received during the consultation period are now being carefully considered and will be included in an overall Consultation Outcome Report.

“This will be published in due course, following Trust Board and Department of Health approval. Any final decisions relating to proposed changes, will be subject to Department of Health approval.”

 

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