With the Bengoa Report on the future shape of hospital services imminent, TUV MLA Jim Allister used an Adjournment debate at Stormont to reiterate that the services of the Causeway Hospital must be retained.
In the course of his remarks Mr Allister said:-
“To distil the health needs and issues of North Antrim into four minutes is probably impossible. I think if there is one core issue of concern as we go forward, particularly as we await the Bengoa panel, it is to underwrite and underscore the necessity of maintaining the acute facilities of the Causeway Hospital. Without them, there is such a gap in provision for the whole northern part of North Antrim that it is unthinkable. The Minister’s predecessor made this commitment in the House. He committed to retaining Causeway Hospital as a small acute hospital and said that:
“The model for services … will be based around an acute hospital in Coleraine, with an emergency Department, supporting clinical services”. — [Official Report (Hansard), 21 April 2015, p82, col 1].
“My first question to the Minister is this: can she reaffirm that commitment? With or without the Bengoa panel report, is there a commitment to maintain that? It is vital to the services afforded to the people in North Antrim.
“Equally, we need to maintain the maternity unit there on a consultant-led basis. That is the ideal, and it must be maintained….. However, there is concern in the context of the Bengoa report, in which the whole ethos, we are told, is about moving towards more community care, yet many of us cannot see it in our communities. We do not see the advance of community care. What we hear about from many of our constituents is a contraction, not an expansion, of community care. There is less time, not more, for individuals in their own homes.
“We have the dichotomy of a protestation that everything looks rosy: by moving forward and intensifying community care, we can have fewer acute hospitals; but the reality that we see in our constituency is very different. Hence the necessity to underscore and commit irreversibly to the retention of the Causeway Hospital and the other facilities.
“We saw the attempts — the crass attempts — to undo the provision in Ballycastle’s in the Dal. Thankfully, that was derailed, but the mentality that induced that situation still, I fear, exists in many of the management structures of the Northern Trust and elsewhere.
“We have seen successive Ministers, not just this one but her DUP predecessors, refuse to take the fundamental liberating step for the statutory nursing homes of removing the shackles and allowing admissions, underscoring for many of us again the agenda to try to run down those homes. You cannot say, “I am committed to a statutory home and see a future for it”, if, at the same time, you deny it the lifeblood of admissions. By failing to take that fundamental step, Ministers from both parties have failed in that fundamental task of securing the future of those homes
“I hope that this debate will be timely. I hope that it will not be overcome by disappointing news when the Bengoa panel reports. In this debate, we are laying down markers for what is needed.”