Tuesday, 18 November 2014

#SaveTheDal - Another letter to the Minister

A letter to Mr Wells from the Ballycastle Community Development Group and Paul Kerrigan's family:

Mr Jim Wells MLA
Minister for Health, Social Services and Public Safety
Room 218
Parliament Buildings
17 November 2014

Dear Minister,

Re: Proposed closure of Dalriada Hospital, Ballycastle

I write to you on behalf of Ballycastle Community Development Group, but also on a personal basis. The community of Ballycastle and beyond are deeply concerned and dismayed at the news of the intention, by you and your Department, to close the Dalriada Hospital in Ballycastle.

In the first instance, it has been published that the proposed ‘temporary’ closure will result in a potential saving of £0.6 million to the [Northern Health and Social Care] Trust. It would appear at first glance that the decisions that have been made, have been based on a somewhat flawed economical base and the proposed savings are minuscule in the grand scheme of things. However, the direct impacts on a rural community, staff and patients are unquantifiable.

There are 20 intermediate beds in Ballycastle, each of which costs £850 per week, which equates to a total weekly bed cost of £17,000. In comparison, an acute bed, according to published Northern Trust's figures, costs between £2,100 and £2,800 a week, taking a medium figure of £2,350. This would result in a cost of £47,000 per week equating to a direct increase in costs to the Trust of some £30,000 per week. This, in anyone’s eyes, DOES NOT make economic sense.

Between December 2013 and August 2014, the average occupancy for those beds in Dalriada was 92%, which is extremely high. It would have been higher had it not been for the loss of days due to transport delays in the Northern Trust. That would add another 6% to that figure, which means that we are talking about a real figure of 98%. As many in the health profession will tell you, anything over 90% represents a hospital that is effectively full in terms of intermediate care. Source: Daithí McKay MLA

It has been suggested by the Trust that measures will be put in place to ensure those who have availed of the Multiple Sclerosis respite care in Dalriada will be given an alternative care package – care homes and direct payments to enable families to avail of ‘in-home’ respite care. In the first instance, directing those who suffer from MS to a care home to avail of respite care is neither an economically positive, sustainable nor suitable alternative to the care package currently offered by the facility and staff at Dalriada. The care package offered by the facility at Dalriada is the only type offered by any of the Trusts; it is unrivalled and heavily supported by local residents and groups. It has been publicly stated by you, Minister, that this facility has been under-used. I ask of you, was it promoted and published by your Department? Again I would request information to substantiate your claims. Evidence would suggest that there was no strategic plan put in place by any Trust to refer any MS patients to this facility. I ask of you and your Department to provide clarification on this issue. 

With regards to the second point - offering MS patients the opportunity of availing of respite care in their own homes - this would appear to me as being a somewhat perverse and fundamentally flawed ideology. What kind of respite will the patient or family get and at what additional cost to a Trust which is supposedly ‘temporally’ closing this facility as a cost saving measure?! Again, I would request a full and detailed cost comparison between the current model of care provision provided by Dalriada and what you, and your Department, have envisaged as an alternative.

In my limited knowledge of this particular type of care, I would believe that both carer and patients need time to recuperate. How will this be achieved if both patient and carer are still resident in the same property with the additional burden of a ‘carer’? And, with no disrespect, I use the term ‘carer’ very loosely in this instance.

If, as you and the Trust have publicly stated, this closure is only ‘temporary’, what measures and legal assurances have been put in place to redeploy the staff back to Dalriada?

If this closure is on a ‘temporary’ basis, I ask you, the current Health Minister, what are the associated costs involved in ‘mothballing’ and reopening this facility? To quote you at Assembly Questions ‘we will turn off the lights’ - what are the direct savings anticipated by these measures? I respectfully request a detailed breakdown on the current fixed running costs of this building.

As someone who has just had laid his father to rest, who received nothing but the highest standard of care and attention from all levels of staff, both in the Causeway and in Craigavon, I am somewhat disgusted, dismayed and saddened by the fact that my father was unable to see out his last days in a hospital which is dear to our hearts, due to the restriction imposed by the Trust on admissions to Dalriada. My father helped build the hospital; my mother worked in it for 30 years; and many family members and friends have received unrivalled care, compassion and attention in their final moments in a Hospital which is easily accessible to those who reside in the District of Moyle, and you as the current Health Minister are willing to sanction its early demise.

I ask of you Minster, to consider all the facts and figures, the sustained public opposition to this proposed ‘temporary’ closure and the hurt and pain that this is causing to a very exposed rural community.

Although this has been portrayed as a ‘temporary’ closure, as a community we believe that this is nothing more than a forerunner to the permanent closure of Dalriada. I ask of you Minister and your Department, has your Department put in place measures to undertake an EQIA, substantive and meaningful public consultation, rural proofing and cost benefit analysis? If so, I would be grateful if you could forward any relevant information.

On Behalf of Ballycastle Community Group

Paul Kerrigan BEM