Poots rejects A&E 'volcano' claim

Published Wednesday, 27 August 2014
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Health Minister Edwin Poots has rejected a claim that the situation at the Royal Victoria Hospital's accident and emergency ward is like a volcano ready to erupt.

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It comes after a health worker told UTV the problems at the Belfast A&E have been growing in recent weeks, with the hospital struggling to cope with the number of patients coming through its doors.

Asked about the comments, Mr Poots said: "That's not the feedback we're getting at this stage, but we understand that they're under a lot of pressure and it's not acceptable."

On Tuesday, at its peak, 101 patients were waiting to be seen in the A&E and 20 were on trollies waiting to be admitted, after what was described as an exceptionally busy weekend for all three Belfast area hospitals, the Royal, the Mater and the Ulster Hospital.

The situation had not improved by Wednesday evening, as 33 patients were waiting on trollies and 96 people were waiting to be seen. One person had to wait over 22 and a half hours before being seen.

Back in January a major incident was declared at the Royal Victoria Hospital when a large backlog of patients caused 12-hour trolley waits with dozens of extra staff being called in.

I intend to ensure the department of health gets more money so that we can actually support the services. We are under huge pressure.

Edwin Poots

Pat Neeson, porter and Unison's health and safety officer at the Royal, likened the conditions at the A&E to a volcano waiting to blow.

He explained: "Back in January, when we first went into meltdown, the Health Minister Edwin Poots said that it was a one-off. The one-offs are still continuing.

"This is basically a normal day of the year for us, this is before we've had any bad weather and already we're under stress. It doesn't bear well for the winter coming in.

"As winter comes upon us, I honestly don't believe we're going to be able to cope with what may manifest itself in relation to what's going to come through this department."

Mr Neeson said the union has called for an urgent meeting with the Health Minister.

Mr Poots, who accepted that the current situation is "unacceptable", said it has come as a result of cuts to the health department's proposed budget.

The DUP minister went on: "I had identified funding to go to emergency departments, to go to the other end of hospitals to ensure that people would get out into the community more quickly.

"As a result of the cuts that have been made to the budget proposed by [Finance Minister] Simon Hamilton by Sinn Féin, we don't have that money now and that is one of the consequences."

The latest crisis comes on the same day The Irish News has leaked cost-cutting proposals by the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust in light of a £140m deficit in the health department's budget.

I have been contacted by unions and staff in the RVH and once again there are dozens on trolleys and at one stage tonight almost 100 people waiting to be seen.

Paul Maskey

The plan includes bed closures, axing of agency nurses and doctors, halting non-urgent operations, charges for home help and the end of winter flu jabs.

According to the newspaper, the Trust warns in the documents that there would be "unsafe rotas" in medical care, unsafe nursing levels and increased waiting times - which could have "serious implications" for A&E and out-of-hours services.

Sinn Féin MP Paul Maskey said he's seeking an urgent meeting with the Belfast Trust.

"I'm calling too on the health minister Edwin Poots to step up to the plate. He has the largest budget of all ministers in the Executive," he continued.

"He has also received a total of more than £200m of additional funding on top of that budget, including an extra £20m in the latest monitoring round.

"Yet instead of tackling the problems in A&Es he has chosen instead to criticise the Executive, his party colleague the finance minister and just about everyone else for his inaction."

© UTV News
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23 Comments
Fed-up in Ballymena wrote (110 days ago):
A&E charges please. We're seeing people arriving at A&E with "Headache" and drunk or under the influence of drugs. And admitted !
Whistleblower in Antrim Area Hospital wrote (110 days ago):
The "Pressure" isn't in A&E .....It's in the Wards. The backlog extends vackbinto the A&E departments I speak for Antrim Area Hospital. It's all smoke and mirrors. Our staffing levels are virtually at half and the workload the same if not more. Staff stress levels high and morale all time low. Nothing done or said.
Anne in Ards wrote (111 days ago):
Stormount just doesnt work ! Unqualified members terrorists bad decission making come on westminster sort this out we have a healthcare crisis. This experiment is over.
Siabhan in Co Down wrote (112 days ago):
The Nurses and others services are the worst paid in the health services, how can they give all care to patients when the resources are cut when the Minister of Health Mr Poots give Bonus to top Consultant's Doctors and the largest salary to fat cats of Trust Safety of patient's lives must come first The NI MPs must go back to Westminster and tell them they will not accept those severe welfare reform/austerity in NI that cripples Public and health services,argue against welfare reforms cuts and refuse Tory penalties, PM will back off
Michael in Belfast wrote (112 days ago):
This is a man who actively opposes scientific principles and yet is in control of the publics health and the doctors, researchers, radiographers, surgeons etc etc who work in it.....absolute madness!!!
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