12/01/2006

Emergency surgery facilities to be axed from Lagan Valley

Emergency surgery facilities are to be axed from the Lagan Valley Hospital in Lisburn from next month.

The Eastern Health and Social Services Board decided to cut the facilities as part of a plan to develop the hospital as a special centre for elective surgery.

This decision coincides with previous plans agreed by the Down Lisburn Trust, the Board and the Department of Health to develop elective surgery at the Lagan Valley and send patients there from the larger Belfast hospitals.

Health Minister Shaun Woodward must authorise the final decision, however the board believe this to be a formality.

This follows last year's decision to remove emergency services from the Tyrone County Hospital in Omagh, and consolidate them in Enniskillen.

The Eastern Health Board has commented that its decision was made following an independent report, which concluded it would be risky to try to maintain emergency surgery services at the Lagan Valley.

The report implied that the hospital didn’t have sufficient services or staffing to provide 24 hours a day emergency facilities.

Approximately 1,000 patients have been admitted to Lagan Valley in need of emergency surgery, with almost 50% going onto have an operation.

From next month, these patients will be transferred to other hospitals.

Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson has today voiced concerns about the decision and questioned whether the Eastern Board had really thought through what they were doing.

He also emphasised the effects of the roadworks on the Westlink and the effect they will have on hospital access.

He said: “I am very concerned about the impact this decision will have upon the people living in the Lagan Valley area. I don’t believe the Board have thoroughly thought this decision through and certainly have not calculated the enormous consequences which this decision will have.

"Has the Board considered the substantial road development which is planned over the next thee years on the Westlink in Belfast and the increased journey times which will come as a result? One major concern about the development of the Westlink was the disruption, which it will cause for emergencies trying to gain access to either the City or the Royal hospitals. Surely this needs to be considered alongside the decision to withdraw the emergency services from Lagan Valley. I wouldn’t have thought that the cited clinical risks would be able to outweigh the risks of the lengthened journey times to either of the main Belfast hospitals."

(EF/GB)


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