The Newtownabbey facility, which was first commissioned in November 2020 as a regional post-Covid stepdown service before transitioning to become a regional fractures/general rehabilitation centre, is shutting as “no recurrent funding source has been identified.”
A Northern Trust spokesperson explained: “The 23-bed unit has since transitioned to become a regional fractures/general rehabilitation facility and has been operating successfully as such, with evidence of strong outcomes and an average length of stay consistently below 14 days.
“Funding was allocated by the Department of Health (DoH) to retain the provision until the end of the current financial year. However, reflecting wider budgetary pressures, no recurrent funding source has been identified beyond the end of March 2023. As a result the unit now requires to be wound down on a phased basis, with final closure at the end of March 2023.
“The Northern Health and Social Care Trust was honoured to host this regional service which was commissioned and funded by the Department and we are proud of the outcomes achieved for the patients who availed of this service."
Staff are now entering a process to consider alternative employment either on the Whiteabbey site or elsewhere in the Trust.
The spokesperson added: “Community beds are a vital part of our patient journey in that they afford the opportunity for patients to avail of a period of assessment or rehabilitation in bed-based facilities to maximise their personal abilities, often following a period of acute hospitalisation.
“Over the past few months we have been working up a long-term community bed model and we plan to go out to formal public consultation on this model early in the next financial year.
"We are committed to maintaining inpatient rehabilitation on the Whiteabbey Hospital site and this will form part of the overarching community bed model.”
Responding to the announcement, Macedon Ulster Unionist Party Councillor Robert Foster said: “Everyone knows the pressure our acute hospitals and staff are under, and the loss of these 23 beds will be felt right across the Northern Trust, putting even more pressure on acute hospitals.
"This facility must receive funding to allow it to remain open past March 2023.”