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The MP, MIAs, councillors, representatives of UNISON and the RCN come together to launch the campaign

The MP, MIAs, councillors, representatives of UNISON and the RCN come together to launch the campaign

FOR nearly 30 years the Star has reported on the continuing battle to save services at the Lagan Valley Hospital.

But the final day of reckoning has now arrived.

There are well established plans to close the Accident and Emergency department all together in 2013 leaving us with only a minor injuries unit.

Now there's an even more immediate crisis with the shortage of junior doctors forcing the closure of casualty every night.

Neither of these situations is good enough. We need and we deserve better.

We could spend the next six months revisiting how we arrived at this woeful situation, but that won't change anything.

Instead the Star is today launching a campaign with two aims - firstly to get full time cover reinstated as quickly as possibly.

But secondly, to demand something much better than a minor injuries unit when A&E closes in less than two years.

In this paper our MP Jeffrey Donaldson outlines an audacious plan which would see a huge investment in the hospital and a new model of care, bringing together frontline services and offering the people of Lisburn a truly better healthcare service - one that could be the 'envy of towns and cities across the country.

One you could go to 24 hours a day. You may be treated there or sent by ambulance for specialist care before coming back to your local hospital to recover close to home and friends and relatives.
It would also protect the jobs of the outstanding staff at the Lagan Valley who have battled valiantly against a backdrop of fears for their jobs for too many years. There will, of course, be fears and concerns that we could be left with a second class service.

But the reality is that even if you have a major car accident outside the Lagan Valley today you will not be taken there. The ambulance will head straight to the Royal Victoria Hospital which deals with all major traumas and is set up for that job.

We must also be mindful of the many deserving and well run campaigns by communities across Northern Ireland to try and save services in their hospitals. Few have ended in success.

But Lisburn has huge advantages. A large population, excellent existing hospital with dedicated staff, good infrastructure and huge potential for growth. Ironically the impending closure of the A&E at the City Hospital strengthens the case for the Lagan Valley. The prospect of the Royal having to cope with the massive influx of extra patients during the winter hardly bears contemplating.
Since the Star opened in 1957 we have been involved in many campaigns to make Lisburn a better place - the call to become a borough in the 1960s, city status in the 1990s and ensuring a maternity unit stayed here just a few years ago.

This will be the biggest battle yet but the prize is great.

Politicians of every party have set aside differences, the staff at the LVH back it and if the people join in, it will create an unstoppable force which can secure our hospital for the foreseeable future and be the dawn of another era of success for Lisburn.

Ulster Star