Page last updated at 16:47 GMT, Tuesday, 29 May 2012 17:47 UK

The Causeway Hospital in Coleraine

The is "a serious risk" of services at the Causeway Hospital in Coleraine being withdrawn if a safe and sustainable proposal for its future is not provided, the health minister said on 29 May 2012.

Speaking during an adjournment debate brought to the assembly by the SDLP's John Dallat, Edwin Poots said no decisions had been made on the future of the hospital's accident and emergency department.

The review of health and social care provision, Transforming Your Care, laid down a road map for the future of health services in Northern Ireland.

It stated that there should be one acute hospital (a hospital which has an accident and emergency department) for a population of 250,000.

The population figures for Causeway Hospital fell well below this.

Mr Dallat stated that a week previously a petition with more than 28,000 signatures had been handed to the assembly calling for the minister to save the hospital's accident and emergency department.

"I can assure the minister that it's only a tiny fraction of those outraged, appalled and disgusted by a review which is designed for only one thing - to downgrade and dilute the accident and emergency department of the Causeway Hospital," he said.

"I repeat, this is not on."

The DUP's Adrian McQuillian said the safety of the Portrush Airshow, the North West 200 motorcycle races and the Milk Cup football tournament would be called into question if there was no local accident and emergency department.

He said if these events did not meet the necessary safety requirements, their locations would have to be moved, something which would in turn affect tourism and the revenue it brought in.

Independent MLA David McClarty quoted Dr Owen Finnegan, a consultant physician at the hospital.

"He said 'without these services, the services at the Causeway, the local population would be put at a significant health risk and the services in Antrim Hospital would be unable to cope, leading to a significant deterioration in the delivery and the standard healthcare model for the whole trust area'".

TUV leader Jim Allister said closing the Causeway accident and emergency department would lead to increased "chaos".

"One need only look at the unremitting chaos in the Antrim Hospital over the past winter and on previous occasions to see why it would be the height of utter folly to consider adding to that chaos," he said.

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