Leading article

Concern over ward closure

While it is accepted that there are always circumstances in which key health services may have to be temporarily suspended, there will still be considerable concern that an entire specialist unit at the Ulster Hospital in Dundonald has been closed for almost a month.

Managers at the South Eastern Trust said the Maynard Sinclair Ward, a paediatric medical facility for children up to 14 years of age, had been unable to operate since November 11 due to staff sickness

The trust cited patient safety issues for the move, which had been agreed between officials and clinicians at Dundonald, and said a high standard of nursing care would still be provided for children and young people in another ward within the hospital.

However, it is clear that upset has been caused to relatives with one father telling the BBC yesterday that his young daughter had come to regard Maynard Sinclair staff as part of her extended family during her regular admittances for a serious condition over the last nine years.

He said that she had to be transferred last month to intensive care at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast, and, when he called into her old unit, he found `basically empty beds and no staff.’

Absence levels among health service personnel must still be running at a high level, as no date has been given for the reopening of the ward.

It will be expected that services at Maynard Sinclair will resume in the near future and it is essential that both patients and the general public are kept fully informed about the consequences of staff sickness across all our main hospitals

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