Northern Ireland

Patient waits at Antrim Hospital 'unacceptable': Poots

Patients have been complaining about a lack of beds at Antrim Area Hospital
Image caption Patients have been complaining about a lack of beds at Antrim Area Hospital

The health minister has called the waiting times at Antrim Area Hospital's A&E department "unacceptable".

The standard of care has come under the spotlight with Antrim Borough Council calling on the public and staff to describe their experiences.

Edwin Poots said the hospital was "fit for purpose" but admitted more work needed to be done to improve care.

Chief executive of the Northern Trust Sean Donaghy also defended the staff at the hospital.

People have been complaining about the long waits and the number of patients put on trolleys.

One patient, Stephen Smyth, told how he had waited for almost eight hours in A&E suffering from breathing problems.

"There weren't any cubicles or any wheelchairs with the oxygen, which, apparently, I needed," he said.

Image caption Stephen Smyth says there is a lack of planning at the hospital

"So I was just put on a plastic chair beside a desk. Then I was put in a wheelchair, then was moved into the middle of the corridor. Then I was moved into a cubicle, but moved straight back out of the cubicle because it was needed for somebody else."

He is now writing to the health trust's chief executive - not to complain about the staff, but about the system and the hospital's lack of space.

He said: "There doesn't seem to be any sort of plan in operation at Antrim Area Hospital. It just seems to be chaos. If there was a bit more planning it might relieve the situation a wee bit."

Earlier, Mr Poots said the hospital was "fit for purpose and people will be treated well in the facility".

"The waiting times in the A&E are not acceptable and there is a course of work as to how we can improve that and we would expect that to be happening and to see these improvements over the next period of time," he said.

Antrim Borough Council has called on the public and staff to contact them with their experiences. These will be treated in the strictest confidence.

Mr Donaghy said the health trust was taking any feedback from patients very seriously.

"I am very concerned that people will feel they do not have the confidence to come to Antrim for urgent medical conditions, and the reassurance I want to offer is that everyone who arrives in Antrim Hospital will be seen by a senior nurse and will be treated by a senior doctor and will have a clear care plan in place," he said.

Mr Donaghy said the problems relate back to the closure of the Whiteabbey and Mid Ulster hospitals.

"We have an A&E department that was not designed for the number of people who are coming there for service and it is very difficult for staff to provide good quality of care that emphasises dignity and respect," said Mr Donaghy.

"It is compromised as a physical environment. It would have been much preferable to have a plan to expand the A&E department at Antrim well in advance of the closure of the Whiteabbey and Mid Ulster hospitals."

Antrim Area's new A&E extension is due to be finished by the summer of 2013.

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