Marion Smith, Ulster Unionist Councillor for Ards and North Down, a well-known campaigner of health issues attended the meeting held in the Recreation Hall at the Ulster Hospital regarding the £70m savings Health Trusts have been asked to make by the Department of Health said at the meeting.
Cllr Smith said:
“I very much appreciated being given speaking rights as I feel I owe the Ulster Hospital my life and that is why the Health Service is so important to me.
“The South Eastern Trust have been asked to save some £10.8m, however we are some 147 days into this financial year and the proposal of a consultation period of 6 weeks, is shorter than usual, taking into account the 6 weeks plus the time to view the views leaves probably some 3 to 4 months and then we were informed that they could possibly be a second consultation exercise.
“Following my experience of consultation regarding the temporary closure of the 20 bed ward at the Bangor Community Hospital some 2 years ago and the temporary closure in the City, I remain very sceptical about the word temporary and more so ‘consultation’.
“A phrase was used ‘minimised impact on front line services” and “change needs to happen” I go back to 2001 to the Hayes Report, we then had the Compton Report, the Donaldson Report and in 2016 the Bengoa Report, this phrase used often but to little effect.
“The presentation on savings was difficult to read, with little background information, reference was made to the 101 community activities, and 6 proposals which were not quantified, there was a one liner on administrative staff. I have asked for the details behind these statements.
“There was information on reducing locums and agency nursing staff, these people are essential to our health service. Leading to 600 to 700 reduction in elective surgery and an A & E even further stretched.
“It is not a light bulb moment that we need more doctors and nurses this has been known for years - is there a guarantee there will be enough nurses and doctors necessary?
“Phrases such as “minimum impact of front line services” were used when the obviously are not true.
“I have the greatest respect for our front line staff but this appears to be where the cuts are being made. Less locums less and less agency nursing staff. The losers are patients, carers and staff.
“I am saddened that any public meeting I have attended by this Trust they have not thought of public accessibility.
“The is an organisation with experts on tap but now via the Department the public are being asked for ideas – is this a sign of despair or simply not knowing what to do next.”