Causeway Chronicle

SOS Causeway Hospital on alert following possible removal of general surgery announcement

Committee members of SOS Causeway Hospital who met the NHSCT William Taylor, Sean Boyle, Adele Tomb and Gemma Brolly, Chairperson.

An announcement by the Northern Trust just two days after meeting Committee members of SOS Causeway Hospital, does little to instil trust in the NHSCT, especially as the issue was not mentioned during their meeting on Tuesday, January 9.

“The meeting, held with representatives of NHSCT in Trust Headquarters was for an update on matters surrounding Causeway Hospital” stated Gemma Brolly, chairperson of SOS Causeway Hospital.

“It is disappointing however to learn two days later, that the future of general surgery in Causeway is possibly at risk and will go out for consultation. While a brief reference was made to surgery within this meeting, it was very sparse in detail and highlighted the potential our local hospital would have to become ‘an elective and diagnostic hub’ in the future.

“In light of this recent news, this is certainly concerning and we have conveyed our feelings in writing to the Trust. Also concerning is the nature in which the previous consultation was carried out and the extremely poor attention to the Rural Needs Act within that consultation.”

Gemma said: “One would hope lessons have been learned. It should also be noted that due to such inattention and the very real risk of reoccurrence now, SOS Causeway are currently considering a Judicial Review.”

“Tuesday’s meeting followed a suggestion made previously to hold quarterly meetings in order to improve transparency and communication within the community” explained Vice-Chair Adele Tomb.

The meeting began with a brief summary of the six-month review of the transfer of births from Causeway Hospital to Antrim Area Hospital. The Trust advised this review would be expected next week but generally all appears to be going well. Caroline Diamond reported that the addition of 22 midwives had been significant in reducing pressure and improving morale.

Admission was perceived however, that the layout of the maternity ward was not ideal, SOS Causeway Hospital representatives highlighted reports of rooms which were not fully equipped or suitably located.

SOS Representatives were informed of two BBAs (Born before arrival), amounting to two with no adverse outcomes fortunately, and also of how a number of mothers in the Limavady area appear to have chosen Altnagelvin Hospital to give birth since the change.

Ms Diamond advised this was expected and indicated that both trusts are corresponding and any pressures on the Western Trust as a result of the transfer of births will be investigated.

Representatives of the Trust indicated they are not aware of any complaints and enquired if SOS Causeway Hospital had been aware of any. SOS communicated that while a number of women had contacted them wishing to make complaints, their first priority was duty of care and to ensure both mother and baby had time to recover.

The line of communication is open and ready if needed and the hospital advocacy group have also shared the official contact details in order to register complaints with the Trust. It was agreed by all that SOS Causeway Hospital would refresh this information and all agreed on the importance of face-to-face opportunities to communicate any concerns.”

Chair of SOS Causeway Hospital Gemma Brolly, also requested an update on the Paediatric Unit and on out of hours accessibility, expressing that their had been some local concerns.

“The Trust representatives explained that it can be challenging to provide services due to issues such as staffing” stated Ms Brolly.

“They explained that Paediatrics does in fact operate as a network. No definite answer was given regarding the future of the Paediatric ward in Causeway Hospital.”

Ms Brolly continued, “While many other issues such as the onsite Midwifery Unit and the planned Women and Children’s Health Unit were discussed it was clear that there is no real deadline or end point in sight for these actions, with no government, and difficulties finalising plans and accessing funds.”

The meeting continued with a presentation of a future vision for Causeway Hospital which included financially sustainable services with a particular developmental focus on over 65s. The Trust reiterated their commitment to a 24/7 Emergency Department, developing and improving same day emergency care, ambulatory care and the multi-disciplinary assessment unit. The potential for Causeway Hospital to ‘lead the way’ in developing integrated care was also highlighted.

SOS Representatives also enquired about current plans or actions regarding the future of mental health services in Causeway Hospital, particular reference was also given to the lack of mental health services for maternity inpatients and how so much of our mental health needs in Causeway Coast and Glens are now facilitated by individual charities and organisations and not the NHSCT.

It was confirmed there are no real plans yet for a consultation on this issue, the hospital advocacy stressed the importance of residents and professionals from the local area being consulted and involved in forming plans and a well-rounded vision of what mental health services could look like, both in the proposed Birch Hill Mental Health Unit in Antrim and in the Causeway area.

Trust Representatives agreed this was a positive opportunity and suggested that their Mental Health Director may be able to attend the next quarterly meeting.

Farmers For Action representative and SOS Causeway Hospital representative made very clear the decision to transfer births from Causeway must be reversed in the best interests of all involved. Mr Taylor also highlighted a reported increase in home births as a result of women wishing to stay home to give birth rather than travel to Antrim in what some had described to him as ‘chaos.’ Trust representatives responded that due to these concerns they would include home birth information in their review.

SOS Causeway Hospital concluded with an assurance that they would continue to work and advocate for the residents of their area in order to ensure everyone had access to a high, deserving standard of care in their local hospital.

Causeway Chronicle

Causeway Chronicle