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MLA demands surgical upgrade at Antrim Area Hospital after Surgeon paints stark picture


North Antrim MLA Jim Allister has demanded a surgical upgrade at Antrim Area Hospital. It comes after Mr Allister contacted a consultant on behalf of a constituent who had his cancer surgery cancelled twice.

The surgeon at the hospital replied and stated the stark needs that exist at the much under pressure facility.

In a statement Mr Allister said:

“A response from a consultant surgeon at Antrim Hospital to questions I had raised about cancellation twice of a constituent’s cancer surgery, has vividly brought home to me the result of underinvestment in the surgical department at Antrim.


“This constituent, like others, had his cancer surgery cancelled at Antrim on two occasions. The response below from the surgeon best sets out how utterly unacceptable the situation is at Antrim:


Dear Mr Allister
“I received a copy of a letter from your office in relation to a patient (Mr .......) who has unfortunately had his cancer surgery cancelled twice in the Northern Trust. I can assure you; as was also communicated to Mr ......, that these decisions were not taken lightly and his first cancellation was due to the very real risk of him contracting Covid during the surgical outbreak in Antrim Area Hospital.
“Unfortunately we currently have extremely limited capacity to perform elective surgery. I have referred Mr ........ to the Ulster hospital for surgery as they have much more elective capacity and I did not want to delay his surgery any further. I have been assured that his surgery should go ahead the week beginning 15th Feb.
“One has to ask why there is capacity for cancer surgery (kindly granted) in Ulster hospital and such a disparity. You may not be aware that the surgical department in Antrim Area Hospital has suffered from major underinvestment for many years and indeed the surgical department has hardly changed over the last decade. Given the geography and lack of space and staff (due to underinvestment) we have been unable to provide a safe 'Green' pathway for cancer patients during this surge. The Ulster hospital, through their investment in new theatres and day surgery unit have thankfully been able to provide a service, both for their patients and patients from across the province.
“I would urge you in your position as MLA to use your influence to improve the resourcing of our surgical department for the patients in your constituency. We are currently crippled by a tiny intensive care unit which was substandard pre-Covid and now during Covid has been abandoned and re-housed in a spacious medical ward. We drastically need a new fit for purpose intensive care unit, coupled with theatres and enhanced surgical bed capacity.
We are very keen as a team to transform the delivery of emergency and elective surgical services across the Trust and with your influence hopefully this can be expedited and resourced.
In the meantime, if we do not resume a higher volume of elective services within the unit I can unfortunately assure you that you will be receiving further correspondence from constituents.
Yours sincerely
Xxxxxxxx”
North Antrim MLA Jim Allister

Mr Allister continued:


“This is an appalling state of affairs.


“I will be pursuing the matter with the Health minister and immediately raising the following Assembly Questions:-

Priority Question
To ask the Minister for Health what is being done to address major underinvestment in the surgical department in Antrim Area Hospital, resulting in staff being unable to provide a safe 'Green' pathway for cancer patients during this COVID surge.
To ask the Minister for Health when will Antrim Area Hospital be provided with a new fit for purpose intensive care unit, coupled with theatres and enhanced surgical bed capacity.

“My constituents are as deserving as any of full and proper facilities. Cancer delays are often fatal. Antrim Hospital must be brought up to modern standard in its vital surgical department.”

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