Following a statement yesterday (19 March) by the Minister for Health in the Assembly on ‘Transforming Your Care’, a strategic vision health document, Ms Ritchie said: “The Minister for Health has announced that in the South Eastern Trust area, the central emergency department will be at the Ulster Hospital with an out-of-hours service operating at the Downe, and eventually at Lagan Valley.
“It is crucial, in order for both the Downe and the Ulster to provide an effective health service that there are increased levels of clinical networking between junior and middle grade doctors at both hospital sites.
“Last week I received figures from the Trust confirming that waiting times in the Ulster Hospital have increased since the out-of-hours A&E service at the Downe began. This is distressing for both staff and patients alike.
“With services increasingly under pressure, and the announcement today that Lagan Valley will soon have an out-of-hours A&E service, it is imperative that, as a matter of urgency, the Trust take immediate action to address the issue of waiting times.
“It is also crucial that services on all sites have greater access to staff, services and medical provision to provide a full comprehensive standard of health service. Junior doctors should be recruited to the Downe Hospital.
“The Minister for Health recently advised me that the Department has invested in an additional 96 medical student places in QUB and that the impact of this investment in the junior doctor workforce should start to take effect from 2013 onwards.
Progress on the recruitment of junior doctors, with greater cohesion of staff between the Downe and the Ulster, cannot come quickly enough. Presently, patients are waiting overnight in the Ulster Hospital and the Ambulance service is paralysed by an overstretched A&E Department at the Ulster Hospital. Additional A&E capacity at the Downe Hospital could be accommodated by the recruitment of junior doctors.
“The delivery of high quality medical health provision and services will be the benchmark by which the Minister’s decisions will be based.”
Speaking on UTV Live Tonight, Health Minister Edwin Poots said: “Change is necessary. We will transfer resources from the hospitals to the GP sector. This will be challenging for GP’s but it will ensure that essential services are carried out for the local community.
“We will be taking money from one sector to another to address chronic illnesses.”
In addressing the issue of residential care for the elderly, Minister Poots said that reducing residential care in local homes was really about better alternatives. He said: “We need to have the right packages available – every individual should have the right to stay in their own home if possible.
“Partnerships will be established over the next few months. 479 people will move from residential care to ensure elderly can stay in their own homes.”
Locally in the South Eastern Trust area, staff at Ardview House in Ardglass have been keeping an eye on change staking place. Usually there are around 40 residents in Ardview residential home but that figure is at the moment around 27. The emphasis in the future will be on domiciliary care, reducing the need for institutionalised residential care.”