06 January 2006

Dismay at Whitewell surgery closure


Residents on the Whitewell road are campaigning to save vital medical services after learning of the planned relocation of their doctors’ surgery.
Less than two years after the community was left without a Post Office on the Whitewell, residents have been left reeling again with news that Whitehouse Medical Practice will be moving from the bottom of the Whitewell to the Abbey Centre.
Local community worker Geraldine McKernon said the removal of the surgery would cause disruption for many patients.
“The Post Office has gone and now the surgery is to go. I would have to ask how are local pensioners going to get from this area over to the Abbey Centre, especially with the trouble we have with public transport? We are going to be left in this area with nothing at all. I fear for the residents, especially the pensioners because this is yet another vital service we are losing,” she said.
Angry at the loss of the Post Office, residents have vowed to fight to save the doctors’ surgery, and a petition has already received 400 signatures.
Deputy Mayor Pat Convery is supporting the residents’ campaign.
Sinn Féin councillor Tierna Cunningham also said that she was deeply concerned about the situation.
“As the local elected representative I wasn’t aware of any consultation process regarding the move and I am very alarmed,” she said.
“This move will affect the most vulnerable members of our society such as senior citizens and single parents.
“The Whitewell is an area of deprivation which requires many different levels of support, one of these being a healthcare centre so I would appeal to those who made the decision to rethink the move as it will be detrimental to the community.”
SDLP Deputy Lord Mayor of Belfast, Pat Convery, said he was against the relocation, and was seeking an urgent meeting with the practice manager to discuss the pending move.
Pat Convery said the planned relocation of the practice had come as a “great shock” to many in the local community as it is convenient for local patients.
“I have been inundated by residents asking what the medical practice is proposing, and there has been a community survey carried out which has been forwarded to me. I hope to pass it on to the board on behalf of the residents who signed it,” he said.
“The loss of the practice will seriously inconvenience many patients, especially older people and the parents of young children. It will also have a negative impact on other local businesses. It is adding to the further reduction of local services especially after the closure of the local post office last year.”
No one from Whitewell Medical Practice was available for comment.

Journalist:: Evan Short

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