by JULIE-ANN SPENCE
Lagan Valley Hospital
Mr Seamus McGoran
THE Director of Hospital Services at the South Eastern Trust is urging the people of Lisburn to make use of their local hospital.
Mr Seamus McGoran said that the number of people attending the Lagan Valley Hospital's Accident and Emergency department at the weekend had fallen sharply and he is encouraging people to make use of the services on offer.
Despite the reduced opening hours, the hospital's A&E department is treating around 70% of people who previously used the department.
Admissions are at 80% and, according to the Trust, ambulances are bringing more patients to the hospital during daytime hours.
"We are open for business seven days a week," said Mr McGoran. "There seems to be a feeling that the hospital closes at the weekend but the Lagan Valley is open for business from 9am until 8pm seven days a week. It is there at the weekend and people need to make use of their local hospital."
The Lagan Valley Hospital Accident and Emergency Department is currently working to restricted hours. It is open each day, Monday to Sunday, from 9am until 8pm.
Paul Givan MLA
LAGAN Valley MLA Paul Givan has criticised the Northern Ireland
Medical and Dental Training Agency (NIMDTA) for their failure to
successfully allocate junior doctors to the South Eastern Trust area.
Mr Givan met with representatives from NIMDTA following the shock overnight closure of the Lagan Valley Hospital A&E department.
The reduction of hours was deemed necessary due to the lack of junior doctors at the Lisburn hospital. Following a recruitment drive NIMDTA allocated two junior doctors to the Trust area. One of these was allocated to the Ulster Hospital for training and the second failed to take up the placement.
Health Minister Edwin Poots informed the Lagan Valley MLA that NIMDTA were unable to provide a reason for the resignation of the second doctor and stated that the agency were unable to allocate any more doctors to the area.
Mr Givan also wrote to the Chief Executive of the South Eastern Trust, Mr Hugh McCaughey, questioning why a doctor had not been allocated to the Lagan Valley.
In his response Mr McCaughey stated that the doctor was required to complete a year of training at a Level 1 hospital and pointed out that the Lagan Valley was a Level 2 hospital. This doctor was therefore allocated to the Ulster Hospital.
Mr McCaughey also made it clear, however, that work was ongoing to secure staff for the Lisburn hospital and stressed that discussions are "aimed at ensuring the long term appointments so that we can maintain safety and sustainability of the service."
Mr Givan has criticised NIMTDA and stated that the agency should have allocated another doctor for the South Eastern area. "Clearly the systems at NIMTDA are not sound," said Mr Givan. "They should have known which doctors would take up the position.
"If they had been told that one of the doctors wouldn't take up the post they should have allocated a different doctor to the South Eastern Trust.
"That could have helped the Lagan Valley Accident and Emergency Department to remain open or at least have its hours extended," he concluded.
Trust chief reveals moves towards a partnership approach that could see GPs and hospital staff working together to provide round the clock access to the Lagan Valley.
THE Chief Executive of the South Eastern Trust has revealed that 24 hour access to the Lagan Valley Hospital could be reinstated as early as next summer.
Mr Hugh McCaughey and the Director of Hospital Services Mr Seamus McGoran told the Star that everyone was working towards a partnership approach that could see GPs and hospital staff working together to provide round the clock access to the Lisburn Hospital.
They have stated their intention to have a preferred option ready to go to public consultation early in the New Year and, following a twelve week consultation process, the new arrangements could be in place by early summer.
Their comments follow the high profile campaign which has seen thousands of people sign a petition in the Star and through Lisburn City Council.
"We think the Lagan Valley has a very strong and very vibrant future," said Mr McCaughey. "We would like to see primary care integrated onto the site. We want to find a model that will bring stability. We want to find a pro-active system to meet needs in a sustainable way.
"The challenge for us is it to make access 24/7. It will be a
partnership model and24 hour
access at LVH by summer there is a willingness amongst all parties to provide something that will work."
The Director of Hospital Services, Mr Seamus McGoran, said he was hopeful that proposals could be brought forward in the next few months. Public events will then be held to allow local people the opportunity to hear about the plans for the hospital and share their views.
"We are hoping to have thrashed out a range of options by early in the New Year," he confirmed. "We need to convince the public it is a good model and make sure they know that they will get a very specialist service."
Mr McGoran also had high praise for the staff at the Lagan Valley Hospital, who have faced great uncertainty over recent months. "It is a really difficult time for the staff," he said. 'Anything that is uncertain really makes the staff nervous. The staff have been absolutely fantastic despite the uncertainty. They have been flexible and have continued to give the highest quality of care. "The key thing now is to give clarity on the future and get everyone signed up," he added.
NEXT WEEK: The Star will look at the long term plans for the future of the Lagan Valley Hospital.