Poots rejects A&E 'volcano' claim

Poots rejects A&E 'volcano' claim

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.

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 PootsPat 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 MaskeyThe 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.CHAR(13) + CHAR(10) CHAR(13) + CHAR(10)"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.CHAR(13) + CHAR(10) CHAR(13) + CHAR(10)"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

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