The Down Community Health Committee has pleaded for the return of the Downe Hospital ED closed five years ago on a ‘temporary’ basis.
The Down Community Health Committee (DCHC) has called for political intervention at the highest level to ensure that there is a rapid restoration of the full Emergency Department (ED) service at the Downe Hospital in Downpatrick previously enjoyed by the people of the East Down area.
Since the introduction of the ‘temporary’ reduction in service five years ago to a weekday only daytime service, the needs of the local community have not been well met.
This closure has combined with the impact, felt especially in rural communities, of the ongoing under investment in the Ambulance Trust.
Down Community Health Committee Chairperson Eamonn McGrady, indicated that there is “a much bigger picture” to be considered before any permanent reshaping of emergency care across Northern Ireland can be considered.
He said: “The simple fact is that there is an urban rural divide in terms of Emergency Department services and their distribution, with an undue concentration of a limited resource in the Belfast area, inevitably having a detrimental impact on the rest of the population.
“For example, according to Google, the average car journey times between the hospitals, on a non-blue light basis, would be as follows:
• Ulster Hospital to the Royal Victoria Hospital 21 minutes
• Ulster Hospital to Lagan Valley Hospital 31 minutes
• Lagan Valley Hospital to the Royal Victoria Hospital 15 minutes
• Lagan Valley Hospitals to the Craigavon Area Hospital 23 minutes
• Downe Hospital to the Ulster Hospital 40 minutes
• Downe Hospital to Lagan Valley Hospital 41 minutes.
“And we all know, sadly, that we have poor quality road infrastructure in our area. We also know that the situation is much, much worse, for those who do not own a car and have to rely on the scant and inadequate public transport links from our area, even from its’ larger towns.
“The case for a restoration of a type 1 Emergency Department in Downpatrick is even stronger now than ever before.”
MrMcGrady added: “ We are fully aware that there was and is an emergency situation, a national emergency, over Covid-19.
“Our community has more than played its’ part through the temporary loss of services at the Downe, a hospital which, as always, has stepped up to the mark to play a massive role, punching well above its’ weight in responding to the Covid emergency.
“The time has come now to rebuild, with much positive news on the vaccine battle. The damage done to our local services must now be repaired as a matter of the utmost urgency.
“Justice and equality demand nothing less.”
Trainor Says Top Ministers Must Get Involved In The Down ED Issue.
Veteran health campaigner, Mrs Ann Trainor, the DCHS vice chair, said: “The recent ‘temporary’ decision, by the South Eastern HSC Trust to close the Emergency Department at the Downe Hospital in March 2020 due to the impact of Covid-19, has further heightened fears in the local community that the full Emergency Department service may not be restored.
“The Trust has done this while maintaining services at the Lagan Valley Hospital and the Ulster Hospital.
“These services are our right, not a privilege”, said Ann Trainor.
“It is clear”, she added, “that intervention at the highest political level by the Minister for Health and the First and Deputy First Ministers is now essential.
“We need this to protect the rights of our community in order to receive an equitable share of NHS services and resources.
“The Trust has still not given a commitment of a firm date for the restoration of even our pre-Covid service.
“This is simply not acceptable from an NHS that can build Nightingale Hospitals in a matter of a few weeks. It is all about priorities.”