MORE patients in the Ballycastle area are likely to be treated at the Causeway Hospital following the completion of an expansion scheme.
The Ballycastle Chronicle can exclusively reveal that the Coleraine hospital's emergency department is to increase in size.
And, after years of uncertainty over the Causeway's longterm future, there are also plans to develop a new Direct Assessment Unit at the Causeway, which allows for direct GP referrals, specialising in fraility.
Causeway Coast and Glens UUP Councillor William McCandless welcomed the expansion plans following reassurances to his party over the hospital's vital role..
He said: “Causeway hospital is at the heart of the community in Coleraine and it provides an invaluable service to people right along the North Coast. It’s also a vital part of the two acute site network that serves the population of the entire Northern Trust area.
“I have long advocated for investment in the hospital, as well as an increase in the services that it provides. This is especially the case when the population practically doubles in the wider area thanks to our influx of tourists.
“This is extremely positive and encouraging and let us hope that it comes to fruition, thereby strengthening Causeway’s future in the area.”
A Northern Trust spokesman confirmed the expansion plans. He said: “We have now started a discussion with a view to increasing the engagement of our communities in developing and transforming services across the Northern area.
“It is vitally important that we get this right and we will be working closely with all those partners that have an active stake in the provision of health and social care.
“In addition, within the Trust, we have set up a group which is considering how to strengthen Causeway Hospital so that it can best play its part in meeting current and emerging needs.”
He added: “Initially, we are looking at all accommodation on the Causeway site and, with some re-configuration, we intend to increase the footprint of the existing Emergency Department.
“This will allow us to strengthen our minor injuries stream and consider assessment pathways as alternatives to hospital admission.
“We are also developing a new Direct Assessment Unit specialising in frailty. This will be a consultant-led service which will have direct access to medical diagnostics, and the full multi-disciplinary team of Occupational Therapy, Physiotherapy and Social Work.
“The emphasis of this unit will be to provide another pathway to full medical, multi-disciplinary team assessment, access to community services and the ability to provide timely follow up, again as an alternative to hospital admission.”