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Mid-Ulster facing 20m in health cuts

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Mid-Ulster facing 20m in health cuts thumbnail Mid-Ulster Hospital, Magherafelt.

FEARS are growing over the future of health services in Mid-Ulster with 20 million set to be slashed from the local health budget.

Mid-Ulster District Council is to seek an urgent meeting with both the Northern and Southern Trusts following the publication of plans to cut 13 million from the Northern Trust's budget and 6.4 million from the Southern Trust's budget.

Under current proposals, the Northern Trust, which is responsible for the provision of healthcare in Cookstown and Magherafelt, will make 6.32 million in savings through what the Trust has only defined as "low impact measures".

A further 6.68 million will be saved by what the Trust describes as "major / controversial measures".

A reduction in the reliance on locum staff will save 2.4 million within the Northern Trust. Another 2.4 million will be saved from cutting 2,400 non-urgent elective surgeries from Mid-Ulster and Whiteabbey Hospitals.

A further 0.45 million will be cut from the budget for community rehabilitation beds and 1.475 million will be cut from the domiciliary care budget, while 0.2 million will be saved reducing private non-emergency ambulance transport.

These measures will result in a reduction of between 16 and 20 acute beds and a further reduction of 44 beds across the Northern Trust.

The meals on wheels scheme provided by the Northern Trust will also be wound up, saving 60,000. Currently, 103 users rely on the service.

A further 75,000 will be generated by increasing the cost of car parking charges at the acute sites by about 20 per cent.

The Southern Trust, which is responsible for health care provision in Dungannon, will see its budget reduced by 6.4 million. Over 6.3 million will be saved through what the Trust describes as "low impact savings", while a further 75,000 will be saved by ending a voucher scheme that works in partnership with 54 pharmacies across the Trust.

Speaking at the monthly meeting of Mid-Ulster Council, Cllr Trevor Wilson brought the matter to the council's attention, arguing that these proposals will make a bad situation worse.

"We already have the worst waiting times anywhere in the UK and now, by further reducing elective care, the pressure is only going to continue to grow," he said.

"Apart from it being morally wrong to have so many people waiting for such long periods of time, the longer someone has to wait for either a diagnosis or treatment, the greater the risk there is of them coming to serious and lasting harm.

"Health now looks like a postcode lottery as the proposed cuts are not the same across all the Trusts. Some people are engaging in rank hypocrisy. Sinn Fein have called for the entire cuts process to be stalled, yet it was they who walked away from the Health Ministry seven months ago.

"The UUP would have instead sought to make savings. We want to merge the five local health trusts into one, with one Chief Executive and one set of directors.

"I propose that we meet with the Northern and Southern Trust as a matter of urgency to discuss the impact these cuts will have on our constituents." Councillor Malachy Quinn, seconded the motion. Speaking after the meeting, he condemned the cuts.

"These cuts will hit the most vulnerable in society," he said. "There is little to no detail about how these cuts will be made.

"There is a great fear in the community.

People are concerned about the effects these cuts will have on them.

"Where is the Executive and Health Minister to fight these cuts? We seem to have been abandoned by the two major parties." SDLP MLA, Patsy McGlone said: "Rural health services are already under severe pressure and waiting lists continue to grow across the north.

"I am deeply concerned that among the cuts being discussed is the loss of around 30 staff at the Mid-Ulster Hospital in Magherafelt to be transferred elsewhere with the proposed "temporary" closure of non-urgent surgery services at Maghaberry and Magherafelt.

"The SDLP wants to see a properly funded health service delivering for all our constituents.

"That requires the restoration of the Executive and a locally accountable Health Minister working to improve the situation."

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