Poots denies patients were 'at risk'

Published Tuesday, 26 February 2013
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Health Minister Edwin Poots has denied that patients' lives are being put at risk due to bed shortages at the Ulster Hospital.

Poots denies patients were 'at risk'
Patients were waiting over four hours to be seen by a doctor at the Ulster A&E (© Presseye)

The South Eastern Trust has confirmed they are operating 20% above capacity.

It is understood some patients waited in A&E for more than four hours on Monday night.

They had been brought by ambulances on 999 calls, but with no beds in the hospital, those in need of medical attention were left on stretchers in a corridor.

It is believed that at one stage, seven ambulance crews were waiting to pass their patients on to doctors. That meant crews could not go out to other emergency calls.

Alliance health spokesperson Kieran McCarthy said he was very concerned at the delay.

"Ambulances are not meant to be tied up at the front door of a hospital, they should be responding to emergency calls. Lives are going to be put at risk if this problem is not resolved," the Strangford MLA said.

"The Health and Social Care Board should urgently look into what happened on Monday night and ensure that the resources are put in place so that it is not repeated."

He said the events on Monday night highlight that more must be done to cut waiting times at Belfast's emergency departments.

However, Mr Poots told UTV: "Patients lives were not put at risk - and that is the first thing we have to make very clear.

"People's lives aren't being compromised. People who needed to see doctors in an emergency situation - that happened."

The DUP minister said that those who didn't require immediate treatment had to wait.

"It wasn't satisfactory, it's not ideal. I'm not defending it. It's an area we need to do better in."

The Ulster Hospital's A&E has seen an extra 10,000 patients since the closure of the emergency department at Belfast City Hospital in 2011.

A South Eastern Trust spokesperson said: "The emergency department at the Ulster Hospital was extremely busy [on Monday] with 66 ambulances attending, 20% above capacity, and 247 new patient attendances."

The number of patients at the emergency department has increased this year because of the changes within the greater Belfast system - including the closure of the City's A&E, the spokesperson added.

There is increased pressure on our staff who continue to provide excellent care to our patients under very challenging circumstances.

South Eastern Trust

"The large number of ambulances resulted in a longer wait for ambulance turnaround yesterday but this would be out with our normal performance.

"Patients were triaged as normal and on occasion had their treatment started whilst they waited for an appropriate space to become available in the emergency department. Medical and nursing staff in the emergency department worked tirelessly to address patient needs at that time. "

A spokesman for the Ambulance Service said 10 patients waited more than two hours to be treated at the Ulster Hospital on Monday. Two were in the emergency department for longer than three hours before they were treated.

In January, Department of Health figures show more than 6,500 people attended the Ulster Hospital's A&E, with 223 waiting longer than 12 hours for medical attention.

The A&E at the City Hospital had its doors temporarily closed in 2011 because of a shortage of doctors.

But earlier this month, the Health Minister revealed it could shut permanently. Politicians are once again voicing their concern.

Roy Beggs, Ulster Unionist Health spokesperson, said that it was clear the strain of the closure has become too much.

"Paramedics have the vital responsibility of transporting seriously ill people to hospital; they therefore cannot afford to spend exorbitant periods of time sitting in queues in their vehicles or in the corridors of our hospital buildings," the East Antrim MLA said.

"The strain which the closure of the A&E department at Belfast City Hospital has placed on neighbouring hospitals is now having a visible knock on affect."

According to Margaret Ritchie, SDLP MP for South Down, the decision to close the Downe Hospital's consultant led A&E between the hours of 10pm and 8am has added to problems.

"Back in October 2012 I alerted the Health Trust to the situation whereby my constituents had to wait overnight in the Ulster Hospital A&E to see a doctor, after being referred from the GP Out of Hours service at the Downe Hospital.

"The authorities were notified that this was a situation getting out of control, that the decision to close the Downe A&E between 10pm and 8am was placing pressure on the Ulster Hospital."

The MP said that she made it clear then that steps needed to be taken.

© UTV News
Comments Comments
19 Comments
stephen in comber wrote (565 days ago):
We get nothing but lies every time something is wrong with our health department and people are dieing Mr Poots been and saw it myself so stop this and stop it now.
Disgusted Patient in Bangor wrote (569 days ago):
If the £130m spent on sending patients to private hospitals - a move to ensure targets were met!! - had been spent on our own hopitals we would be in a better position to deal with all the problems in the NHS!This money could have and SHOULD have been directed into our own health service thus creating jobs, improving services etc within our NHS hospitals and therefore solving all the problems that have been created. Someone's head should roll!
Mike in Belfast wrote (569 days ago):
Poots shows that he does not have a grip on reality. Him and his party are more concerned with devoting time to flags than fixing our broken country.
SYLVIA SLEITH in BEFAST wrote (569 days ago):
MR POOTS HAVE WAS NEVER GOING TO OPEN THE A&E AT BELFAST CITY HOSPITAL AGAIN I THINK ITS TIME MR POOTS CAME TO THE REAL WORLD AND SEE WHAT HE HAS DONE TO OUR HEALTH SERVICE HE IS A TOTAL DISGRACE TIME FOR HIM TO GO AND FOR THE DUP TO PUT SOMEONE THAT CARES ABOUT THE SICK UNTILL THERE IS AN ELECTION AND GET HIM OUT . SHAME ON YOU POOTS BYE BYE TIME TO GO YOU WONT BE MISSED
Tg in Bangor wrote (569 days ago):
If you Vote for clowns what you get is Clowns. Unfortantantly Clowns is all that is on offer at the Moment. We need good polital representation not selfintrested arragont Clowns in the Job for the Money
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BRIAN ROWAN
The voice above the crowd didn't come from within that increasingly tense and angry political arena.
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