Ulster Unionist Party Health spokesperson Roy Beggs has claimed that the instigation of ‘escalation measures’ at the Royal Victoria Hospital is symptomatic of a deepening crisis across Northern Ireland’s accident and emergency departments. The East Antrim MLA was speaking after the Royal had to take the emergency measures when more than 100 people were left waiting in its A&E and many others on trolleys, as well as several other hospitals reporting similar scenes.
Roy Beggs, who is also a member of the Health Committee, said;
“Only last month the Royal Victoria Hospital declared a major incident when similar pressures to those seen over recent days materialised in its A&E unit. At the time the Health Minister was keen to stress that those pressures were exceptional. Unfortunately recent days have shown that such circumstances are now no longer exceptional and in fact appear to be becoming more regular.
“It was not just the Royal that experienced difficulties either; it was hospitals all across Northern Ireland. Antrim Area, the Ulster and the South West Acute Hospital in Enniskillen all faced serious challenges in the last 48 hours.
“It is clear that our A&Es are struggling to cope under current pressures and this is totally unfair to the patients as well as all the hospital staff who work so heroically within them. It is abhorrent that the Minister and the Health Trusts try to pass off these pressures as exceptional or deny that a crisis exists. Until there is an acknowledgment of the severity of the problem, the hospitals stand no chance of being given the extra support they so clearly need.
“Our A&Es are in the midst of a crisis with too few staff and too few beds available. My Party warned for instance by closing the A&E department in the Belfast City Hospital, which had 45,000 attendances the year before it was shut, that Edwin Poots was placing further intolerable pressure on the A&Es in the Royal Victoria and Ulster Hospitals. Nevertheless he proceeded to shut it, opportunely citing ‘staffing concerns’.
“In the last number of months, despite the crisis in A&Es clearly deepening, the Trusts have astonishingly announced that they are also further reducing services in the Lagan Valley and Downe Hospitals.
“The Minister needs to step up to the mark and take serious action. It’s grossly unfair placing the staff and patients of our A&Es under such pressure, and tragically as we know the Department is already investigating a number of deaths in which excessive delays in waiting for treatment may have been contributing factors.”