David Ford said: “We were very concerned when local ambulance staff told us of their
fears for a reduced service in the South Antrim area because of the closure of Accident and Emergency at Whiteabbey outside ‘office hours’. This will inevitably result in local paramedics’ time being taken up transporting patients to Antrim or Belfast, with a reduced availability of ambulance cover in the South Antrim area.
“When we met Board officers, Mr Stuart MacDonnell, the Chief Executive, explained that ambulance response times were not as good as he would wish. He stated that this is because part of the area covered is rural in comparison to Belfast, and also because investment promised by the Department of Health has not been provided.
“In recent years, investment of over £25 million had been promised for the Ambulance Service Trust, but only a tenth of this has been seen. While this has been invested in better staff training, there is a need for more paramedics and more suitable vehicles.”
“I want assurances from the Health Minister Paul Goggins that the other £20 million promised to the Ambulance Service Trust will be provided as a matter of urgency.
“There may be difficulties with providing the appropriate level of casualty services at smaller hospitals, such as Whiteabbey. However, Alliance does not accept that there should be a reduced emergency service to people in the South Antrim area because of this. Enough ambulances, and fully-trained paramedics must be provided to ensure that response times are met. We need better, not worse response times.”
Newtownabbey Mayor Lynn Frazer added: “When we asked about increased response times, Board officers assured us that they would monitor figures closely over the coming weeks. Iain Deboys, Director of Performance Management, has promised me that he will supply us with the waiting times statistics for November, December and January, compared to recent months, so that we can assess how matters change in terms of the service provided to residents in Newtownabbey, Antrim and Carrickfergus.”