THE borough’s biggest community petition signed by nearly 20,000 people was presented to health bosses as public pressure over proposed cuts to Newtownards and Bangor minor injuries units continues to grow.
The petition containing 19,032 signatures was presented to Department of Health Permanent Secretary, Peter May, by North Down MLA, Alex Easton, councillors Ray McKimm and Wesley Irvine, as well as community campaigners.
The petition calls on the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust to ‘immediately withdraw’ their controversial closure plans in a bid to reduce ‘further pressure on the already overstretched Ulster Hospital’.
Earlier this year health trust bosses proposed to scrap both the MIUs in Ards and North Down in favour of building a new facility at the Dundonald hospital site.
In another act of solidarity against the proposed cuts, concerned local residents and elected representatives also held a protest outside Bangor Hospital on Sunday.
Said Mr Easton: “We organised this petition to oppose the proposed plans to remove services from our Bangor and Newtownards community yet again with the proposed closure of the two minor injury units. We will be presenting a second copy of this petition to Roisin Coulter, chief executive of the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust.
“For too long Bangor in particular has borne the brunt of cuts right across different government bodies and this has to stop. All of our politicians need to start standing up for the people of Ards and North Down and their needs.
“I believe it is vitally important that Ards and North Down has these services maintained and that the Trust starts to listen to the needs of residents for a change because all I hear is empty words and broken promises.
“I am asking the residents of Ards and North to get behind us and let’s put a stop to this cut to a vital service which is needed for the development of our health needs within our community.”
Councillor McKimm said it was great to meet Peter May as the group wanted to make it clear that the community’s voices needed to be heard.
“It is the biggest community petition ever to come out of North Down. It is very clear that people want community based services and they want these MIU services in their community.”
He said: “Moving the services up to Dundonald will not prevent 18 ambulances queuing up at the accident and emergency, that is a whole different issue that needs to be addressed. The people of the community should not be paying the price for this flaw and we want these services in our community.”
During a recent public meeting into the proposed closures Mr McKimm revealed he was in possession of a series of emails from senior Trust clinicians warning that the new accident and emergency unit, expected to open later this year, is too small. Mr McKimm said this is the real reason for the proposal to axe the minor injuries units.
Councillor Alistair Cathcart said the South Eastern Health and Social Trust must listen to the public.
“It is unclear how closing two MUIs will lead to better patient care, outcomes and waiting times at an already busy Ulster Hospital,” he said.
“The excellent staff at Bangor and Ards MIUs need to be allowed to continue to provide wonderful care.”