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Tuesday, 17 August, 1999, 10:28 GMT 11:28 UK
Angry scenes over casualty closure
The Minister has said the closure of casualty services is temporary
The Minister has said the closure of casualty services is temporary
Officials from a Northern Ireland health board were heckled at a public meeting over plans to close the accident and emergency department of a hospital.

Protestors were voicing their anger at the temporary closure of the casualty unit at the South Tyrone Hospital in Dungannon.

Several speakers at a meeting in the town, accused the Southern Health Board of trying to close the hospital, which earlier this year lost its maternity department.

Specialised staff

The A&E department will close on 1 September because it cannot attract enough specialised staff.

People in the South Tyrone area will have to travel to Craigavon Hospital to receive accident and emergency treatment.

Only minor injuries will be treated at South Tyrone Hospital from 9am to 5pm on weekdays.

South Tyrone Hospital will only treat minor injuries on weekdays
South Tyrone Hospital will only treat minor injuries on weekdays
Northern Ireland's Health Minister John McFall said both closures are temporary but general surgery services will also be transferred to Craigavon Hospital on 1 October.

Pauleen Stanley, chief executive of the hospital trust said that its staff recruitment problems are common to many other small hospitals.

She said: ''The small hospitals are having difficulties surviving.

''It is the larger hospitals which can offer the team work that consultants require and that can offer the volumes of patient care that enable individuals to maintains their skills.''

Hospital resources

But Accident and Emergency consultant at Craigavon, Seamus O'Reilly said the Craigavon Hospital will not be able to guarantee that all the resources will be in place to cope with the changeover by 1 September.

He said: ''We will have some of the resources in place but we won't have all of them.

''There is priority being given to this and a placement of resources has been made with us, but it probably won't be in place by September 1st.''

Longer queues

Jim Kerr from the South Tyrone Action Group said he was concerned about the speed of the transfer of services.

He said: ''We feel this is very ill-conceived, ill-planned and done in the greatest of hurries and the local population and the staff in South Tyrone and Craigavon are the ones who are going to suffer most.''

Patricia McKeown:
Patricia McKeown: "Poor forward planning in health service"
Patricia McKeown from Unison said the closures are ''evidence of poor forward planning in the health service''.

She said: ''It seems to me that when it comes to putting in place a mechanism for taking forward thinking decisions about what a National Health Service might look like, we are in a vacuum dragging our heels.

''But remarkably when it comes to taking decisions that have been hanging around for about 18 months like this one to close the accident and emergency department, there is unseemly haste.''

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Audio
Health Correspondent Dot Kirby reports from the meeting
See also:

03 Jun 99 | Health
03 Jun 99 | Health
Links to more N Ireland stories are at the foot of the page.


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