Anger Mounts Over Downe Hospital A&E Service Hours Reduction


Margaret Ritchie, South Down MP.  says any attempt to dilute services at the Downe hospital will not be tolerated.

The South Down MP has vowed to fight the case for the hospital after the South Eastern HSC Trust said a shortage of doctors at its A&E units could lead to it being closed at weekends.

Ms Ritchie said that should the move go ahead it would mean patients would have to travel to the already overburdened A&E at the Ulster Hospital, which she branded “unacceptable”.

[caption id="attachment_43269" align="alignleft" width="390"]The new Downe hospital in Downpatrick under pressure because of resources. The new Downe hospital in Downpatrick: the A&E is under pressure because of staffing resources.[/caption]

Ms Ritchie added: “We in Downpatrick, and in the Down and Mourne area, worked for more than thirty years to secure a new hospital with services, and we are not going to allow the Trust or the Department of Health to strip away those services.”

Ms Ritchie said the people of Northern Ireland deserve and demand access to proper services and requirements that meet their medical and health requirements.

“Local accessibility to services at the point of delivery is paramount and it is totally unacceptable for elderly people to have to lie on trolleys for endless periods of time, or be on waiting lists, when you have on top of that winter pressures and other emergencies. It is totally unacceptable.

“We will not tolerate any dilution of A&E services, or any closures at the weekend as that would cause serious inconvenience for people who would have to travel to Dundonald to an already overloaded and overburdened service. I have no doubt this will have an impact on many other hospitals in Northern Ireland. Dilution of services or closure is simply not an option.

“I have been in direct contact with the South Eastern Health Trust and the Health Minister and will continue to pursue this matter.”

South Down MLA Chris Hazzard has called on the South Eastern HSC Trust to urgently outline the future plans for the Accident and Emergency department of the Downe Hospital.

Mr. Hazzard said: “There are deep concerns over possible plans to curtail the accessibility of A&E Services in the Downe Hospital by closing it during evening and night time.

“This is a modern hospital that only opened in 2009 yet it has been subject to removal of services since the beginning.

“By restricting the opening hours of the A&E ward it will be another blow to the sustainability of the hospital and a major blow to the local community.

“The area of South Down needs to have access to a professional A&E service in the vicinity and given the problems that the Belfast A&E’s are experiencing it is not an option to move this service to any of the hospitals there.

“I am calling on the South Eastern HSC Trust to state categorically what the future of the A&E Department in Downe Hospital is and therefore relieve fears that this hospital is being run down just four years after it has been opened.”

UKIP Representative Alan Lewis said patients should not be put at risk and added:  “Staff shortages have led to a review of A&E unit opening hours at two hospitals in County Down, I understand. The Downe Hospital’s A&E times are being reviewed by the South Eastern Health Trust,

“A spokesperson for the trust said a shortage of doctors is making the hospital unsustainable. Sick and injured patients cannot be put at risk. it is clear the problem of staff shortages have now been identified the responsibility now lies with the minister to put it right, he needs to support the hard working staff of Downe and ensure there are proper resources available.

“Surely it doesn’t take a review to make decisions on peoples health and welfare, what the Minister needs to tell us is ‘yes’ there will be adequate staff made available the South Eastern Trust need to tell us how this situation arose.

“If this closure goes ahead we will be in the unworkable situation of a centralized weekend  A&E ran from the Ulster Hospital, will we soon be at a ridiculous situation were opening time signs hang outside our hospitals like police stations within this District.”

Alliance Councillor Patrick Clarke also ezxpressed his concern about the current crisis at the Downe Hospital and added that he has written to Minister Poots on the issue urging him to stop “the continued withdrawal and reduction of front line health services at the Downe Hospital in Downpatrick and to advise the South Eastern Health Trust of the major importance of retaining a proper and fully functioning A & E Department at the Downe Hospital in Downpatrick.
“I have written to the Health Minister Edwin Poots regarding my very deep concern as to the proposals by the South Eastern HSC Trust to further reduce and cut the opening hours of the Accident and Emergency Department at the Downe Hospital in Downpatrick due to an apparent shortage of doctors and dedicated staff to work at the Downe Hospital.”
“The recently built Downe Hospital in Downpatrick was officially opened back in June 2010 following a very long and sustained campaign by politicians, lobbying groups and the local and wider community to secure a new replacement hospital to replace the former Downe Hospital in Downpatrick.”
“Regrettably the current Downe Hospital has been the continued victim of sustained cutbacks since its official opening back in June 2010 and it seems clear to both me and other members of the general public that the Downe Hospital in Downpatrick is the easy choice when cutbacks and financial savings are required by the South Eastern Trust with the A & E Department no longer being open 24 hours and now possibly being the next casualty through further reductions in opening hours.”
“I also have to question the logic and rationale behind the South Eastern Health Trust’s motives to further reduce opening hours at the A & E Department at the Downe Hospital?  Are the South Eastern Health Trust fully aware that the Downe Hospital serves a very large rural population spread across Down and Mourne and transferring patients to other A & E Departments in Hospitals outside Downpatrick such as Dundonald or Hospitals within the greater Belfast area can result in patients waiting for medical treatment for at least over an hour if the opening hours at the A & E Department at the Downe Hospital are further reduced.”