Minister concerned shortened hours may not be reversed
by JULIE-ANN SPENCE
Reduced A and E hours at the Lagan Valley from August.
FROM next month the Accident and Emergency unit at the Lagan Valley Hospital will no longer be operating on a 24 hour basis.
It has been revealed that due to a lack of junior doctors, the decision has been taken to reduce the opening hours of the unit, with the proposal it will only be open from 9am until 5pm.
How ever, Health Minister Edwin Poots, who said this was a clinical decision taken by the South Eastern Health Trust, has vowed to use his influence to try to have the hours extended into the evening.
"There is a shortage of junior doctors right across the UK," explained Mr. Poots. The Lagan Valley only has two doctors for six places.
It will be a lot less of a problem next year because there is a
higher number of doctors being trained Reduced A&E hours at the Lagan
Valley from August.
continued from locally."
However, Mr. Poots admitted that once the hours of the unit are shortened it may be unlikely they are ever reinstated.
"It is always hard to reinstate something that is lost and I am concerned on that front," he continued. "This reduction in hours will have to take place, and will begin on August 3, but I will be keeping up the pressure to have the opening hours extended."
Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson expressed grave concern about the new opening hours and said he would be holding urgent meetings with the Trust and the Minister about the matter.
"I am very concerned about the current situation at the Lagan Valley Hospital and the decision to reduce the opening hours of the Accident and Emergency Unit," said Mr Donaldson.
"This is a problem that needs to be addressed both in the short term and long term and I will be holding urgent discussions with the Trust and Minister to see what steps can be taken to recruit junior doctors that are required to ensure the accident and emergency service at the Lagan Valley Hospital is fully reinstated.
"I am also concerned about the impact that this reduced service will have together with the possible closure of the accident and emergency unit at Belfast City Hospital. This will undoubtedly add to the pressure on the A&E at the Royal Victoria and therefore a better outcome would be for the A&E at the Lagan Valley to be sustained at the current level.
"This may require new arrangements whereby staff from Belfast can be rotated into the A&E at the Lagan Valley, even if this is a short term expedient to maintain the service in Lisburn while steps are taken to recruit the staff necessary to sustain a full time service here."
A spokesperson for the Trust confirmed: "The Trust is currently undertaking a review of emergency care on all its hospital sites and to date has remodelled the Emergency Department (ED) service at the Downe Hospital and the new service is working very well.
'A similar review is underway for Lagan Valley and Ulster Hospitals and a range of options will be explored for both hospitals. There is an immediate issue which we are dealing with in relation to difficulties recruiting junior doctors for Lagan Valley ED from August onwards. We are currently working to resolve this as best we can but there may need to be some contingency arrangements put in place from August. As we are continuing to make efforts to recruit doctors the scale of the shortage is not yet fully known.
"The Trust will continue to work with key stakeholders to develop
options for the long term model of care for Lagan Valley ED to ensure
that services are safe, sustainable into the future and enable Lagan
Valley Hospital to continue to provide a valuable service to the
population of Lisburn," she concluded.