Further concerns over the quality of urgent care in the south Derry area have been raised this week as it was revealed the Department of Health has moved the Dalriada centres to Antrim Area Hospital.
A local mother, who required care for her child last weekend had phoned the Out of Hours service only to be told care was now based at Antrim Area Hospital.
Afterwards, Ashleigh Campbell started an online petition in a bid to raise awareness of an issue on which she feels the Trust has failed to adequately consult with the public.
“I only realised this service was no longer local when my one year old son took sick and I needed to see GP on a Sunday morning,” she said.
“Fortunately, I have access to a car and could afford to drive my son (24miles) to Antrim Area hospital. I cannot imagine what others who do not drive would do.
“Do they phone an ambulance? Risk the life of their child/relative by waiting until their GP surgery opens?
“This lack of acute LOCAL healthcare after 8.30-5.00pm Monday – Friday is completely unacceptable and unsafe, it is a disgrace.
“The communities of Mid Ulster deserve LOCAL and accessible acute healthcare.”
The Department of Health did not respond directly to questions from the County Derry Post, but a spokesperson said the services had ‘temporarily’ been relocated.
“Dalriada Urgent Care (DUC) is the organisation responsible for GP Out of Hours Services (GPOOH) provided in the Northern Area,” they said.
“Since the Covid-19 pandemic and the increasing use of remote consultations, fewer patients who contact the Out of Hours services needed to be seen face-to-face in an Out of Hours base.
“After a review of infection control, staffing and patient safety issues at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, DUC’s face-to-face services have been temporarily relocated from Ballymena, Whiteabbey and Magherafelt to the Antrim Hospital site.
“The Coleraine centre remains on the Causeway Hospital site. This configuration remains due to staff challenges.
“The position remains under review.”
Patsy McGlone MLA
Former Mid Ulster MLA Patsy McGlone said the relocation of services to Antrim was ‘worrying’.
“This is a service which has proven so vital to many, many people, including within my own family in past times,” he said.
“It must be hammered home that ‘remote’ consultations, mainly by telephone, are in the main no overall substitute for one-on-one medical observation and diagnosis, particularly for elderly and medically vulnerable people.
“This move has been done without any consultation with local elected representatives, so I have raised the matter directly with Minister Swann.
“The withdrawal of these medical services, particularly from a large, mainly rural constituency, is simply unacceptable.”