Emergency Department closures 'a real possibility'

DUP Alderman Maurice DevenneyDUP Alderman Maurice Devenney
DUP Alderman Maurice Devenney
The NHS is already under considerable pressure and as we head into the challenging winter months, concerns that some departments will face closure due to the pressures have been described by health officials as ‘a real possibility.’

At the November meeting of Derry and Strabane’s Health and Community Committee, DUP Alderman Maurice Devenney raised the issue with Teresa Molloy, Western Trust Director of Performance & Service Improvement.

He said: “Through the media we have heard doctors say we are close to a lockout or closure in some departments and I know the Health Minister has said he doesn’t believe that is inevitable. What are your thoughts on that? I know you are running at high percentages, how long until that would happen and what happens if that emergency case does happen?"

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Ms Molloy responded: “I assume the reference is to our emergency departments (ED).

“We have had very significant pressure in our ED and other emergency departments across Northern Ireland and all I can say is not to deny it because the pressure is there and it's very real. However, we do have systems and processes within the Trust to respond to emergency situations and peak pressures and those are part of our planning processes.

“At times when we have significant peaks in pressure in our ED department we have what is known as our Full Capacity Protocol and we work across our hospital to move patients from ED into escalation spaces across our hospital.

“We have longer term emergency planning and business continuity arrangements that we operate at times of very significant pressure in our hospitals that are there to expedite the flow of patients not only into the wards but also out of the hospitals into home or community settings.

“That's an issue we are very alert to and we have response plans ready to move into ready to activate should we need to.

“It’s a very real concern and a very real possibility for us.”