NEW figures have revealed the startling extent of injuries suffered in the Craigavon area during the big freeze in December and early January.
Statistics obtained by DUP MLA Stephen Moutray confirmed that 353 people were treated for injuries at Craigavon Area Hospital between December 1 and January 9.
An angry Mr Moutray, who obtained the figures after he tabled a question to Health Minister Michael McGimpsey at Stormont, has laid the blame at the door of the Department of Rural Development (DRD) and Northern Ireland Local Government Association (NILGA) for what he termed “their undue delay in agreeing an arrangement for salting footpaths”.
It took several weeks before arrangements for the gritting of footpaths were introduced, despite some of the coldest temperatures seen in Northern Ireland for many years. The footpaths in Lurgan were particularly treacherous.
The vast majority of those injured by slipping or falling in the icy conditions were treated in Accident and Emergency, but some in outpatients or by primary, community and personal social services
Mr Moutray slammed the delay in implementing the gritting of footpaths but also praised the work of hospital staff who were often stretched to the limit during the crisis.
“These figures are quite shocking. In one hospital in one month, during the period of the extreme weather conditions, over 350 people were treated for falls or slipping. I have no doubt that many of these people will have been elderly or infirm.
“This will have placed an enormous amount pressure upon staff and resources. But it is testament to the dedication and care of hospital staff that so many people received treatment. It also underlines just how long it took DRD and NILGA to come to an agreement over the salting of footpaths. While some councils such as Craigavon did take the initiative and took it upon themselves to act, there was an undue delay in getting an agreement between DRD and NILGA.
“I have no doubt that many of the 350 people were human causalities of that delay. While DRD and NILGA were at loggerheads and passed the buck between one another, local people suffered the consequences.”
Mr McGimpsey also paid tribute to the health staff, who “despite all the recent crises, stepped up to the mark when it counted and delivered care of the highest standards.”