Downe Hospital ED To Remain Closed For Now Says Trust

South Eastern HSC Trust Needs To Explain Why It Is Still Choosing To Keep The Downe ED Closed as a 24/7 Service for the people of East Down.


South Eastern HSC Trust Needs To Explain Why It Is Still Choosing To Keep The Downe ED Closed as a 24/7 Service for the people of East Down.

Down News has learned that a letter is on its way to senior local politicians to say that the Downe Hospital ED is not to re-open for the forseable future.

It is understood that Seamus McGoran, the acting Chief Executive of the South Eastern HSC Trust has concluded that because of the rising Covid-19 figures, that it would not be possible to re-open the ED unit at the Downe Hospital.

Still no reprieve. Why are South Down’s two main ED’s in difficulties ??

Mr McGoran may put forward the option of an urgent treatment centre, but for the many residents and health campaigners in the East Down area, this falls short of their demands, and many contend, their basic rights.

Staff are expected to be redeployed from the outpatients section in the next couple of weeks due to the Covid-19 outbreak with rising numbers reaching a high level. If a full blown second wave takes hold, it could be worse than the first wave.

It is expected that Health Minister Robin Swan will sign of the leatter to the senior politicians in the East Down area.

If the lockdown which may come soon lasts until after Christmas, it will be months before the Trust gets itself in shape to re-open the Down ED.

Down News recently posted an article explaining that the Daisy Hill and Downe Hospitals were the only two hospital ED’s in NI that closed due to Covid-19 (the Belvoir became the Covid-19 centre). There was only one other hospital in the UK (Weston General Hospital that was forced to close.)

For many, the Trust’s argument may fall on deaf ears. health campaigners are deeply concerned at the delay in the reopening of the Downe ED and will be watching this space very closely.


In a statement from The South Eastern HSC Trust, released five minutes ago, a spokesperson said that they has been working to rebuild services in accordance with the Department of Health’s ‘Strategic Framework for Rebuilding Health and Social Care Services’. This has included plans for rebuilding urgent and emergency care.

On 27 July 2020, the Trust set out the planned date for re-opening the Downe Emergency Department (ED) on Monday 19 October 2020, subject to a number of critical factors.

Amongst the most critical factors for opening the Downe ED is workforce availability and the ability to safely deliver urgent and emergency care. The Trust has always been very clear that we would reopen the Downe ED when it is safe to do so. 

Since the end of July 2020, when we made our last statement, we have had further staffing challenges.  Therefore, it is now clear that we are no longer able to fully restore the emergency services provided pre-Covid-19 at this time. 

However, the Trust recognises the need to improve access to urgent and emergency care services for the local population in the Down area.  

From 19October 2020, as the next phase of rebuilding urgent and emergency care services, a consultant-led Urgent Care Centre will open in the Downe Hospital’s Emergency Department.

This will operate from 8am-6pm, Monday – Friday on an appointment only basis, with nurse-led minor injuries services continuing at weekends from 9am to 5pm. The telephone number for the Urgent Care Centre is 028 4483 8091. Those contacting the service will be triaged and offered an appointment within the urgent care service or directed to the most appropriate service. 

This next phase of rebuilding will now provide an Urgent Care Centre which will incorporate and further build upon the Minor Injuries service currently provided at the Downe Hospital. 

This service will operate alongside other services including the co-located GP Out of Hours service and a range of multi-disciplinary primary and community care services. 

Our rebuilding of services needs to be considered in the context of preparing to enter the winter period and the pressures associated with this every year. 

Alongside this, a further surge presents additional challenges in respect of staff availability, whether they have been affected directly by the virus or may be self-isolating due to contact tracing.

The safety of our patients, clients and staff is paramount and this remains the highest priority in rebuilding services including urgent and emergency care. 

The only way the Trust is able to deliver a safe urgent and emergency care service in the Downe Hospital at this time, is to introduce an Urgent Care Centre.

The Trust remains committed to the Downe Hospital and understands the importance of delivering urgent and emergency care services to the population in the Down area. 

The Downe Hospital will continue to play a vital role in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. All plans will be kept under review and we will continue to communicate with the public and key stakeholders.

The Trust would like to thank staff for their incredible commitment and flexibility shown throughout this pandemic. 

We would also like to take this opportunity to thank the public for their continued cooperation and understanding during these challenging times.

Failure to restore Downe A&E completely is unacceptable says Hazzard 

Sinn Féin MP Chris Hazzard has said tonight’s confirmation that the Department of Health has backed the South Eastern Health Trust’s decision to abandon the promised restoration of the A&E department at the Downe Hospital is completely unacceptable.

The South Eastern Trust, and the Health Minister Robin Swann, had publicly committed to restoring the A&E at the Downe Hospital by the 19th October, however these plans have now been dropped, instead the Trust will open an ‘Urgent Care Centre’ at the Downe from the 19th October. 

The South Down MP said: “In recent months the Health Minister Robin Swann made several public commitments that rural communities would be consulted if the Department wanted to make changes to the delivery model of emergency care.

“Yet today the Minister gave his approval for the South Eastern Trust to abandon plans to restore the A&E department at the Downe Hospital with no consultation with staff. 

“This is completely unacceptable and the Minister must immediately reverse this decision and begin a genuine consultation with the local community on the restoration of vital emergency services.

“This process can only be successful if it involves the local community, staff, trade unions and local political representatives so we can help meet the needs of the local area. 

“I have now written to the Minister tonight and requested an urgent meeting in light of this unacceptable decision.

McGrath: Down and Mourne Community Betrayed by Trust Decision

SDLP Health Spokesperson, Colin McGrath MLA, has said that the Down and Mourne area feel “betrayed”by the decision of the South East Trust to not reopen the Emergency Department at the Downe, as previously announced.

The South Down MLA commented: “It now seems to be the case that if you live in rural areas in the North your life is not as valuable as your urban friend.

“The Department of Health and Trusts continue to prioritise big hospitals in urban centres where population numbers are dropping, favouring them over rural communities where population figures are increasing.

“The Downe Hospital and Daisy Hill which both serve the community that I represent were two of only four hospitals across the UK to lose services during COVID-19. In the North places like Lagan Valley and Whiteabbey have been favoured with upgrades to their provision.

“The people of Down and Mourne will reflect that the downgrade of their 24 hour service Emergency Department a few years ago was temporary, the loss of coronary care a number of years ago was temporary.

“Now this move is being billed as temporary – a term that doesn’t sit easy with local people, given many years of broken promises.

“We will need certainty from the Minister for Health and I will be seeking that clarity as a matter of urgency. He must come out and pledge that this decision, billed as temporary, will indeed be that and the rightful services which have been axed at the Downe will return sooner rather than later.”

Related articles: