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Strabane ‘Out of Hours’ Service must be retained - Doherty

3 September, 2008


Sinn Féin West Tyrone MP MLA Pat Doherty has called upon health authorities to provide guarantees that 'Out of Hours' provision in Strabane will be retained as concern mounts that moves are afoot to transfer this vital from the local Health and Social Care Centre in the town to a new centre at Altnagelvin in Derry.

The local MP said,

"The new Out of Hours Centre in Derry opens on the 30th September. While the Western Health & Social Services Board are officially saying that, as of yet, no decision has been made about transferring Out of Hours from Strabane and Limavady to Derry it is clear that the groundwork has been already laid for this move.

"In previous correspondence with the Health Minister and Western Health Board officials said that while no decision had been made about the transfer Out of Hours from Strabane and Limavady they nonetheless alluded to a 'Benchmarking Exercise' into the performance of all Out of Hours in the here compared to what is happening in 'Britain'. They also said that one of the regional targets set for health and social services was the introduction of a more regionalised service. Most worryingly, they refused to give a guarantee that Strabane Out of Hours would not be transferred.

"This 'Benchmarking Exercise' was scheduled to be completed in May of this year and while its findings have still not been made public it is clear that a planned process now underway to try and centralise all Out of Hours at Altnagelvin.

"The new Altnagelvin centre will have additional capacity and an increasing number of people who phone for 'Out of Hours' in Strabane are now being re-directed to go directly to Altnagelvin. I believe this is further evidence of the ground being prepared to justify the centralisation of Out of Hours at Altnagelvin.

"However, information obtained from Department of Health detailing the number of people who have accessed Strabane Out of Hours in each of the last three years show that that there is no justifiable basis for removing Out of Hours from Strabane.

"In my letters to Health Minister Michael McGimpsey and the Chief Executive and Head of Primary Care and Family Practitioner Support Services in the WHSSB, I have called upon them to provide guarantees that Out of Hours provision in Strabane will be fully retained.

"I have highlighted the constant high usage figures for the local service and outlined the scale of hardship and risk to peoples' health that would occur if Out of Hours were centralised at Altnagelvin.

"This includes the logistical and financial burden for people with no access to private transport which would prevent many people from seeking the medical attention they require; further increases in distance from medical services for people living in rural areas of Strabane District; and the detrimental affect centralisation would have on the already high levels of ill-health and disadvantage that already exists in Strabane not to mention the additional burden that would be placed on an already overstretched ambulance service.

"For these, among other reasons, the health authorities now need to provide a solid guarantee that that the Out of Hours service at Riverside Health Centre will be fully retained." ENDS

Notes to editors:

  • The Sinn Fein grouping on Strabane District Council will be calling for a suspension of standing orders at tonight's meeting of Council and will be requesting that WHSSB officials attend Council as a matter of urgency to clarify the situation.
  • In 2004, Sinn Fein was to the fore in lobbying for the WHSSB to withdraw its proposal to transfer Strabane Out of Hours to Altnagelvin and the validity of the arguments that were used at the time have not changed.

Information obtained from Department of Health detailing the number of people who have accessed Strabane Out of Hours in each of the last three years

Telephone

Advice

Attended
Centre
Home Visits
Total
Jan-Dec 2005

7,245 (49%)

6,957 (47%)

563 (4%)

14,765

Jan-Dec 2006

7,378 (50%)

6,918 (46%)

528 (4%)

14,824

Jan-Dec 2007

7,145 (50%)

6,867 (46%)

528 (4%)

14,810

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