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Council unites against `insane hospital plan'

JENNY MONROE REPORTS

Jonathan Craig

Bill Gardiner Watson

LISBURN City Council has unanimously passed a motion pledging their support in the battle to ensure all services including maternity are retained at Lagan Valley Hospital.

At this week's monthly meeting, Councillor Jonathan Craig put forward a motion to send a "very clear message" the council will "fight and oppose these proposals by whatever means available"

Last week the South Eastern Trust revealed plans which would lead to the closure of the maternity unit, the end of acute beds and the threat to downgrade A&E to a minor injuries unit.

Mr Craig described the proposals as "insane", bearing in mind that Lisburn is a city "growing all the time".

"We need to ask ourselves what impact this will have on the staff and the patients. The closure of acute beds means if you call for an ambulance you will have to go to another hospital because there won't be a bed for you.

The threat to downgrade A&E, which has had 35,000 attendances in the past year, which is nearly 3,000 per month, will result in even greater pressure on other hospitals - a totally unacceptable situation. He continued: "The staff within the Lagan Valley Maternity has been under the impression for some time now that there was to be a new maternity unit. With almost 1,200 babies delivered within this unit on a yearly basis. There is a clear need for such a unit and I have over the last few days made an effort to speak with some new parents who have used the unit recently. They are unanimous in their praise for the staff and the unit itself. Not one of them wanted to travel to another hospital."

Mr Craig also pointed out that in the past three years there has been over 2.5 million of capital spend at the Lagan Valley.

"As taxpayers we should be truly outraged that a facility which has had almost 6.8 million of taxpayers hard earned cash poured into it in the past few years, should now be facing run down and possible closure."

He then called on the Council to support the motion and in particular his requests for a petition and that all the elected MLAs in Lagan Valley lobby not only the South Eastern Trust but the Minister for Health as well.

Councillor Bill Gardiner Watson seconded the motion.

Have your say on the plan to close maternity at the Lagan Valley Hospital

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Councillors welcome Craig's proposal

Ivan Davis COUNCILLOR Craig's motion met a warm response at Tuesday's monthly meeting when he asked the council chamber to oppose the South Eastern Trust's proposals.

Alderman Ivan Davis said that the threat to Lagan Valley Hospital came as no surprise to him and reiterated that it must stay open. "We need a forceful case to ensure the hospital stays open."

Councillor William Ward highlighted how good the local hospital has been at keeping all caesarean births to only 17% of total births and warmly welcomed the motion.

Councillor Peter O'Hagan commented that the hospital had played a major role in his life and he was fully behind the motion. Alderman Cecil Calvert said that the maternity unit is a "must for Lisburn", and Alliance MLA Trevor Lunn said he will strongly oppose the closure of "this essential service".

MLA Paul Butler welcomed the proposal and spoke of his desire to meet with Health Minister Michael McGimpsey.

Alderman Jim Dillon said that it is most important that the council remain united in their stance against the proposals.


Minister not seeking cuts

Trevor Lunn
Trevor Lunn
Peter O'Hagan
Peter O'Hagan
Paul Butler
Paul Butler

 Health Minister Michael McGimpsey not seeking cuts

Health Minister Michael McGimpsey HEALTH Minister Michael McGimpsey has categorically stated that he is not seeking cuts from the South Eastern Trust.

Speaking in response to concerns about the axing of services at the Lagan Valley Hospital, Mr McGimpsey said he had asked for "efficiencies, not cuts."

He also added that the impact of the Trust's proposals on staff and patients must be "fully explained." "All Departments must achieve 3% efficiency targets per annum across the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) period in line with Executive agreement. For DHSSPS this amounts to 118/L233/344m expressed cumulatively and therefore all services and all provision must be kept under review," said Mr McGimpsey.

"Trusts must achieve 3% per annum efficiency savings and so I have asked all Trusts to give me their proposals an how CSR efficiencies should be delivered. In developing their proposals, I have specifically asked for efficiencies, not cuts, and that the implications for staff and patients are fully explained. I have not yet received fully worked up proposals from Trusts and I will not be making decisions on Trust efficiency proposals until all these implications are clearly established," he continued.

"Several members of the Assembly have been strongly advocating efficiencies. It is incumbent on us to take the opportunity now to look across the new Trusts and to reshape services where they can be provided more efficiently and effectively. Where monies are freed up, we will invest them into new service developments for the benefit of patients and clients across Northern Ireland."

`Make cuts in administration and not services'

CUTS in administration and not in services to the public should be made to make savings in efficiency according to two Lisburn councillors who are members of the Executive.

Speaking at this week's meeting, Edwin Poots and Jeffrey Donaldson said while cuts need to be made to improve efficiency, they should come from within the administration sector of the South Eastern Trust.

Mr Donaldson acknowledged the Trust was "under a lot of pressure", but insisted the proposed cuts "fall disproportionately on Lisburn City", and are unacceptable.

But he warned there would also be some unpalatable realities.

"I don't think we'll prevent the transfer of obstetrics but there is no reason why we can't have a midwife led unit" he said. "We have the support of the midwives and medical staff and

there is a strong case. More than half the births could be retained and only risk births transferred to other maternity hospitals in belfast.

"My fear is if we lose services. We will lose medical staff and get to the point where the hospital can't operate effectively."

Ulster Star
29/02/2008