DCHC Health Campaigners Call For Better Services

The Down Community Health Committee attacks centralism of health services

The Down Community Health Committee attacks centralism of health services

The Down Community Health Committee (DCHC) will hold its first meeting of the Autumn season, at 7.30pm on Wednesday 14 September, in Denvir’s Hotel, English Street, Downpatrick.

The non-party political, cross-community campaign group has been fighting to protect and enhance health services in the East Down area for several decades.

Veteran campaigner Anne Trainor has appealed for new members to come along and join the group.

Ann Trainor, Vice Chair of the Down Community Health Committee.

She said: “Everyone is welcome to our meetings and everyone has a contribution to make to the campaign. We are an inclusive group.

“The members are of all ages and from varying backgrounds, who come together to serve their local community.

“Politicians from all parties and none are welcome, but the group is largely made up of people who are not politically active.

“Everyone is very welcome”.

Aidan Harris, long-term member, added: “The resolve of this community is undiminished.

“We will fight for the rights of our local citizens, who are the taxpayers who pay for the NHS.

“The centralist agenda, the Belfast parish-pump politics that demands a proliferation of services in Belfast, at the expense of the rest of the North, must end.

“Twenty five thousand people took to the streets of this area just a few years ago to fight for services at the Downe Hospital and make their voices heard. If a further protest is necessary, although I hope that that will not be the case, we are confident that the next gathering will be even bigger.

“ Politicians would do well to note our resolve and our history.

“And we expect them to deliver,” he said.

Campaign chairperson Eamonn McGrady called on the Department of Health to “face up to a few simple truths”.

He said: “Over forty years of the centralisation agenda has failed to deliver for the people, although it may have been convenient for the Department.

“The discrimination against rural communities must end.

The Downe Hospital in Downpatrick.

“The Department needs to recognise and apologise for the consequences of the closure of hospital beds and the implications of those closures for emergency department services, in particular, across Northern Ireland, with 16% of beds cut between 2009 and 2014.

“With such vicious cuts, there would inevitably be pressure on services, especially in Emergency Departments.

“Is it any wonder people are cynical about proposed restructurings of the Health Service, at the instigation of the Department of Health?

“In the course of some recent research, we discovered that, in the 2021/22 Financial Year, there were 37,316 attendances at the Ulster Hospital Emergency Department. These were by people who did not reside in the South Eastern HSC Trust area.

The former Downe A&E Department is now a GP Out Of Hours Urgent Care Centre.

“Clearly, such a massive number of attendances would put massive pressure on Trust Urgent and Emergency Care resources. This issue must be addressed, as it skews the distribution of services and services at the Downe Hospital are, and in our opinion, severely diminishes the Downe Hospital as a result.

“Our Emergency Department, it would seem, suffers as a direct result of this level of activity.

Mr McGrady added: “We challenge the Department of Health and the Health spokespersons of each of the main parties to clarify their views on this matter for the benefit of the local community.

They must explain how it will be factored into the on-going review of Urgent and Emergency Care.”