JENNY MONROE REPORTS
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
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
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.
say on the plan to close maternity at the Lagan
Councillors welcome Craig's proposal
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
Alderman Jim Dillon said that it is most
important that the council remain united in their stance
against the proposals.
Minister not seeking cuts
Health Minister Michael McGimpsey
not seeking cuts
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
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
But he warned there would also be some
"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."