Published on Wednesday 25 May 2011 09:54 Antrim Times
ANTRIM Area Hospital’s Accident and Emergency Department is worse than a Belfast city centre hospital during the height of the Troubles, a leading Northern Ireland doctor has said.
Making his comments to press last week, Dr Brian Patterson, a member of the British Medical Association’s Northern Ireland GP committee, recalled a time during the Troubles when he worked at the Mater Hospital A&E.
“Nothing I witnessed there is worse than the situation at Antrim Area Hospital,” he said.
He said people are being failed by the current system, which means even patients sent there by their GP have to be admitted through A&E.
The unit has come under strain since the closure of the casualty departments at Mid Ulster and Whiteabbey hospitals just over 12 months ago.
The emergency waiting time figures for the hospital highlight the problems facing the A&E unit — with an average of six people every day waiting longer than 12 hours to be treated, admitted or discharged. Under Government targets, no patient should wait longer than 12 hours in A&E.
Dr Patterson said: “Children who need emergency treatment are being forced to wait in the department among drunks and car crash victims instead of being taken to a special paediatric unit for assessment.
“Women who are miscarrying babies are waiting hours in the A&E before being moved on to another ward.
“People suffering from severe nosebleeds cannot go directly to the ENT and have to be assessed in the A&E first.
“People with suspected hip fractures are being taken to the A&E at Antrim Area Hospital by ambulance even though there are no orthopaedic surgeons there and they will have to be transferred to another hospital.
“The situation at Antrim Area Hospital’s A&E is far from ideal and a lot of issues are down to the patient pathway system currently in place,” said Dr Patterson.
“We are constantly being told to do things more efficiently but putting in place better patient pathways which would mean they would be seen once and by the right person would save money.”
It is understood GPs in the Northern Trust have stepped in to work with bosses at Antrim Area Hospital to establish systems which could help cut the waiting times at the A&E.
A spokeswoman said the Northern Trust has developed a “robust improvement plan and is committed to securing improvements in emergency care”.