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Attwood demands answers on death of five in the RVH

By Francesca Ryan

A West Belfast SDLP Councillor has expressed shock after the Belfast Health Trust’s Medical Director admitted that treatment delays may have contributed to the death of up to five people last year.

Dr Tony Stevens’ admission on Tuesday prompted Health Minister Edwin Poots to tell the Assembly that the five deaths may have to be investigated by the Coroner.

Cllr Tim Attwood said there is now a “crisis of confidence” in the Royal’s Emergency Department.

“This horrendous news comes only a day after the Health Minister revised the interim findings from the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) into the major incident in January 2014, which reflected ‘unacceptable experiences’ from both patients and staff at the Belfast hospital,” said Councillor Attwood. “People are genuinely shocked by the admission that five patients died in the Royal Victoria Hospital last year partly because they were not treated quickly enough. Given this admission, the invoking of the major incident in January 2014 and the critical comments made by the College of Emergency Medicine, who carried out an inspection of the RVH Emergency Department in March 2013, there is now a major crisis of confidence in relation to the operation of the Department.”



And after it emerged yesterday that not all of the families of the five dead have been told of the slow treatment link, Councillor Attwood said answers to questions surrounding the deaths must be forthcoming.

“We have dedicated medical, nursing and other staff who are working under intolerable and overwhelming pressures which may have led to poor clinical care and safety concerns,” he said.  “It is imperative that answers are made available, as a matter of urgency, explaining how and why this failure at a strategic decision-making level took place. I along with my party colleague, Fearghal McKinney MLA, will raise the issue with the Trust and the Minister and seek the urgent answers. The SDLP brought a motion to the February meeting of Belfast City Council on the pressures in the RVH and are now seeking to establish a Health Scrutiny Committee to monitor Health Service delivery in Belfast.”

Meanwhile, there are calls for the Belfast City A&E to reopen. Health campaigner Paddy Meehan, who organised protests against the closure of Belfast City Hospital’s A&E unit in 2012, said Stormont austerity is “costing lives”.



“Tragically our warning that lives will be needlessly lost as a result of the ceaseless cuts to our Health Service has been ignored by all the politicians in the Stormont Executive,” he said.

“The findings of the health watchdog, the RQIA, have illustrated a whole string of management breaches, from refusing to provide proper staffing levels to serious incidences of bullying, but none of this comes as any surprise to hospital staff.

“Instead of blaming doctors for refusing to work in emergency services, all emergency services must now be properly funded and resourced. One concrete step towards ending the Health Service crisis is to re-open Belfast City A&E unit as a matter of urgency.

“I together with colleagues in the Socialist Party and the trade union movement will be stepping up our campaign to re-open City A&E and would call on people to support us in our campaign.”

Editorial, page 21

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