Councillor Stephen Martin said: “I am appalled to learn through the media that the South Eastern Health & Social Care Trust is reviewing yet again the current opening hours for Lagan Valley Hospital with a view to another change. There appears too been no consultation whatsoever with local stakeholders and most are only hearing this news through the grapevine.
”Lisburn City Council has worked closely with the Trust following the announcement in July 2011 of the temporary change from a 24 hour model to a service operating from 8am – 8pm.
“The Trust had envisaged an enhanced GP out of hours service working out of the emergency department based on the Downe Hospital model and the Finance Minister only recently announced a £900,000 capital investment to allow for the physical works to be carried out at the unit so that this could be progressed.
”It is simply no longer tenable to label such a change as temporary. What is needed is a concrete timeline from the Trust as to when the enhanced GP out of hours will be up and running from within the emergency department now we know they have the funds to proceed.
“I appreciate that the Trust have always identified that staff shortage remains a risk factor for service provision and they have made strenuous efforts to recruit but to announce this in the mouth of Christmas just adds to the cynicism that the whole project is built on sand and that this situation was inevitable.
“What are the residents of Lisburn and surrounding areas going to do if they need to seek medical attention at weekends? What plans are in place for staff affected who have worked with management to deliver the current model so that patients have the highest possible standard of care?
“The Trust must confirm its intentions immediately. The people of Lagan Valley deserve better than a fait accompli being presented to them.”