A&E Crisis: Fight Stormont’s health cuts

The consequence of the Assembly Executive’s health cuts will be avoidable deaths. This may seem sensationalist, but the first weekend of the closure of Downe and Lagan Valley A&E units saw paramedics rush an ill child 30 miles to the nearest A&E. The child lives only a few miles from Downe hospital! This closure is one more of a long list of Assembly health cuts. The health of ordinary people is far from the priorities of the Assembly Executive. From 2010, we have seen A&E units closed in Mid-Ulster, Whiteabbey and Belfast City Hospital with threatened closure of the Mater emergency services in Belfast. The latest figures from the Northern Ireland Assembly reveal on average almost half of emergency ambulances across Mid-Ulster failed to meet their target response times while ambulance waiting times to unload patients have soared. This is not coincidental. The increased response and waiting times directly follow the closure of A&E units, as pressure on waiting times, beds and staff at the remaining acute hospitals reaches boiling point.

1 A&E

  • Re-open Belfast City A&E!
  • 24 hour A&E provision at Lagan Valley and Downe Hospitals
  • For mass action to stop Stormont’s cuts

The consequence of the Assembly Executive’s health cuts will be avoidable deaths. This may seem sensationalist, but the first weekend of the closure of Downe and Lagan Valley A&E units saw paramedics rush an ill child 30 miles to the nearest A&E. The child lives only a few miles from Downe hospital!
This closure is one more of a long list of Assembly health cuts. The health of ordinary people is far from the priorities of the Assembly Executive. From 2010, we have seen A&E units closed in Mid-Ulster, Whiteabbey and Belfast City Hospital with threatened closure of the Mater emergency services in Belfast. The latest figures from the Northern Ireland Assembly reveal on average almost half of emergency ambulances across Mid-Ulster failed to meet their target response times while ambulance waiting times to unload patients have soared. This is not coincidental. The increased response and waiting times directly follow the closure of A&E units, as pressure on waiting times, beds and staff at the remaining acute hospitals reaches boiling point.

Emergency action to recruit new staff
The Stormont parties have attempted to shirk responsibility, instead blaming doctors for refusing to work within emergency services. This completely dishonest analysis of the crisis in A&E has been blown out of the water by a report from the College of Emergency Medicine. It illustrates the responsibility for the A&E crisis lies with the Assembly Executive, stating “understaffing is due to underfunding for many years.” The details of the report are shocking. Findings showed environmental and workload pressures particularly at the Regional Trauma centre at the Royal Hospitals in Belfast are the worst across Britain and the North. The report states “A&E staff are now working under unsustainable pressures since the closure of the Belfast City Hospital A&E in 2011.” Unsurprisingly, this high pressured stressful work environment, limited resources and punishing workloads with no chance of career progression has seen doctors choosing better opportunities abroad.

Community services being cut
Health Board Chief Executive John Compton refuses to accept the findings from the College of Emergency Medicine. When challenged about Downe and Lagan Valley closures, Compton said “the changes did not have any significant impact on pressures at other hospital sites.” Compton is trying to convince us that GP and community services will step in to provide services. This flies in the face of reality. Since 2011, community services are being devastated, GP services have been slashed by more than £5 million with community services cut by over £2 million. As a result, critical GP and community services are currently unable to meet demand.
By running down our health service, the Assembly Executive are covertly moving healthcare to the private sector. In the last 12 months private healthcare has cost the people of Northern Ireland £45 million. During the closure of the Belfast City Hospital A&E in 2011 some A&E services was being offered, at a price, at a private hospital on the same road as the Belfast City Hospital!

Political alternative needed
All the main parties opportunistically criticise the closure of A&E units even when they are closing them down! This is nothing more than dishonest showboating for votes. MLA’s and councillors have shown time and time again when it comes to real action they do nothing to oppose health cuts. We cannot depend on them! We must now build a mass campaign to defend our health service. A strategy including support for co-ordinated industrial action backed by a united mass public campaign is essential. This year’s local elections provides a real opportunity to give a political voice against all cuts. The Socialist Party will be contesting the local elections in May to provide an anti-cuts, anti-sectarian alternative to the rotten right-wing policies of all the main parties and to build resistance to their cuts.

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