The recent tragic death of Holly Waters in Staffordshire should act as a warning to those living in the Coleraine area, where A&E services are under threat. On 28th June, Holly – a seven month old baby – was taken to the University Hospital of North Staffordshire, 22 miles from her home, because she was refused admission to her local hospital’s A&E, as it is closed at nighttime. She was pronounced dead on arrival. Her family believe she would still be alive if it weren’t for these cuts.
In the Coleraine area, the distances people will be expected to travel if the Causeway A&E closes will be almost double that of Holly. Antrim and Altnagalvin hospital are 38 and 31 miles respectively from Coleraine. The future of the hospital is vital for the broader area, serving also Ballycastle, Limavady, Portrush and Portstewart. If the closure of A&E is allowed to go ahead, this will significantly impact on the health and lives of local people.
With uncertainty over future provision at the Causeway Hospital, a serious campaign to oppose the closure of acute services in Coleraine has been mounted by the local community. A Unison petition containing 26,000 signatures was handed into Stormont at the end of May. On June 23rd a public demonstration of over 500 people through Coleraine town centre was held, showing the anger at the threatened A & E closure.
On the 4th July, 150 people attended a packed public meeting organised by the Coleraine Trades Council. In fact, the meeting had to relocate to a bigger hall because of the turnour. Speakers on the panel and from the floor included trade unionists, hospital workers, politicians, local residents and young people. The anger in the room was evident and, as one speaker argued, “we must get organised and oppose all cuts”. It is clear that hospital workers and the local community are up for a fight. If attempts are made to downgrade the service, the trade union leadership must match this determination and be prepared to lead determined industrial action in order to save this vital service.