THE South Eastern Trust has confirmed that a poster found in the Accident and Emergency department in Lagan Valley Hospital directing people to other units during night time closures is genuine, but insisted it was prepared only as an emergency measure.
Last week the Trust dismissed rumours night-time cover in A&E at the Lagan Valley is to be suspended and put out a statement saying it was "concerned" by the rumours which had no substance to them.
However the Star subsequently received a photograph of a poster in the hospital which appears to show preparations have been made for overnight closures when staff aren't available.
When this was put to the Trust a spokesperson for the organisation said from time to time it experiences difficulty in getting sufficient cover.
She said: "During one of these instances some time ago, one of the service managers quite correctly prepared this poster as an emergency measure in the event we could not get locum cover. We were subsequently able to cover the shift."
The spokesperson explained that the Trust has been engaged in an ongoing recruitment process to attract doctors to work in its Emergency Departments, including Lagan Valley. She said; ' While we have had success in filling some posts over the last few months, we still have vacancies and these shifts are covered by locum medical staff.
"The Trust has said many times that this staffing model is not sustainable and we would like to look at a better way of staffing that removes the threat to the department at night.
"It does remain a very real problem maintaining medical staffing on all shifts, and particularly at night." The spokesperson continued: We at the South Eastern Trust are committed to providing an Emergency Department in Lagan Valley Hospital but we need to find a staffing model that provides greater stability." Director of Hospital Services Seamus McGoran said that while some people may feel it is helpful to raise these stories in the media, all it does is to "undermine public and staff confidence in the service."