The proposed cuts at Bangor Hospital are a result of political mismanagement and Health Service underfunding. The closure of minor injuries unit and GP beds will have devastating effect on health provision in Bangor.
This is a false economy and will lead to a significant increase in pressure at the Ulster Hospital which is unable to meet its present targets. Figures released last week showed that the Ulster Hospital A&E had failed to meet the target of 75% of patients being seen within 4 hours and last month there was a massive increase in the number of patients waiting more than 12 hours.
Even the 75% target is unacceptable as hospitals in England have a target of 95% within the 4 hours.
I have personal interest as former member of EHHSB and chair of “Save Bangor hospital Committee” I was deeply involved in campaign to retain acute services at Bangor hospital Following our campaign the Board gave us assurances on the future of Bangor hospital .While acute services were to be withdrawn we were promised that these would be replaced by 20 GP beds and a minor injuries unit.
We were also assured that the Ulster would be able to provide adequate resources to meet the health needs of the residents of North Down. This is clearly not the case.
The proposed closure of the two units at Bangor hospital will not only renege on this agreement but will put a 16% increase on the A&E unit at the Ulster .This can only be met by a significant increase in resources(staffing)of will inevitably lead to reduction in the quality of health care,
These cuts are not a recent development. They result from a long term underfunding of the Health Service and financial mismanagement. To demand the Trust make savings of five million pounds in the last five months of the financial year to go is clearly evidence of panic. Instead of developing a longer term strategy of cuts the trust is forced to cut the easiest and most vulnerable options. That is why we are faced with the cuts at Bangor Hospital.
The underfunding is a long standing problem dating back to the 2007 programme for Government when the DUP along with Sinn Fein decided to freeze the Health Budget for four years while Westminster raised the English NHS Budget by 4% per annum. Therefore by 2011 the Northern Ireland health budget was more than 10% behind England with a structural underfunding up to £800 million. This has resulted in excessively long waiting lists, drugs ( cancer drugs available in England but not in Northern Ireland) and totally unacceptable A&E waiting times as at the Ulster.
Health in Northern Ireland had become a political football as the DUP tried to embarrass and attack the Unionist Health Minister Michael McGimpsey. You can see in Hansard I made this point at least four occasions but no one listened.
Chickens are now coming home to roost. Even the former DUP Health Minister admitted that the Health Budget was inadequate and was immediately sacked.
In light of the political pressure and united council and the public response I believe this decision can be overturned.
Politically it could be said we are fortunate that we have 3 DUP MLA’s including Alex Easton who is the Private Secretary to the DUP Health Minister. Indeed his position is rather strange. In any other jurisdiction a PPS who opposed government policy would have been sacked immediately or would in principle have resigned.
I would call upon the Health Minister to reverse these cuts in response to the unanimous vote of this council and the massive public opinion who opposed to the cuts and the inevitable reduction in health services in Bangor.