Alex Easton MLA was disappointed at a prearranged visit by the SE Trust to show politicians around the Bangor and Ards Hospitals deliberately avoided the Ards Minor Injury’s Department and staff.

Speaking today Alex Easton MLA said:

“I’m afraid to say the Health Trust just disappointed me last Thursday by their smokescreen of a visit to the local hospitals.

The letter they sent was an invitation to visit the Bangor and Ards hospitals to see facilities and “create an opportunity for staff engagement”.

But in reality it was a carefully orchestrated event that kept us away from the functioning MIU at Ards and ensured we did not get any engagement whatsoever with the only staff team who can comment on the way their service is working and how they see the needs of their patients.

We were guided around lots of other units and had an opportunity to speak to many staff from every department accept the Emergency Nurse Practitioners at minor injuries, those who have been running the service for 25 years. These teams, who have already bravely stood outside the unit in protest against the closures, deserve a voice. This visit felt very carefully prearranged to paint exactly the picture the Trust want, and to deny the MIU team any input.

This approach is very dishonest, and increases my concern that they’re trying to cover up something in this frantic attempt to close the Ards MIU, and what’s more suspicious still, the way they described the closure of the Bangor MIU as “temporary” during the pandemic, and yet they had its equipment moved out almost immediately, meaning that they had no intention of reopening it.”

“All this and yet they’re supposed to be having a consultation at the present time on the future of these units. How meaningful or open is that consultation, if the Bangor unit has already been completely absorbed by the rest of the Health service, and everything points to a foregone conclusion at the Ards Hospital?

“The consultation itself is a whole other debate. Some of my constituents feel it’s designed to be as difficult as possible to respond to, and one pointed out to that to completely take account of what you’re being asked to comment on, she had to download 11 different PDF documents. How can this possibly be accessible to the more vulnerable of our community who make up the largest demographic of MIU patients? Those who have special needs or are of older generations and in many cases are not fully computer literate?”

“I don’t believe the Health Trust is genuinely committed to listening to the needs or well-being of the patient base that they are supposed to be serving in the Ards and North Down area. I believe all of this is driven by money, and by saving face over something even more secretive in terms of the Ulster Hospital and I intend to get to the bottom of it.

The people of Ards and North Down deserve better. At the very least they deserve to have their voices heard. I have written to the SE Trust to ask for a visit to the Minor Injury Unit to allow me to engage with staff.”