Hazzard Supports Set Up Of A Downe Pathfinder Project

Politicians and Health Campaigners Have Zoom Meeting With South Eastern HSC Trust Officials Over Downe Service Provision

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Politicians and Health Campaigners Have Zoom Meeting With South Eastern HSC Trust Officials Over Downe Service Provision

Following a zoom meeting last week with political parties, members of the ownCommunity health Committee and officials from the South Eastern HSC Trust (SEHSCT), Sinn Féin’s Chris Hazzard MP has called on the Department for Health in partnership with the SEHSCT to urgently establish a ‘pathfinder’ model of engagement that would help support and protect the longterm sustainability of the Downe Hospital in Downpatrick. 

Chris Hazzard MP

The South Down MP was commenting following a meeting with the SEHSCT senior management team this week, in which the SEHSCT acknowledged that community communication and consultation has not been good enough in recent times. 

At this meeting Eamonn McGrady, Chairman of the Down Community Health Committee mooted the idea of a pathfinder project for the Downe Hospital indicating that this concept appears to have been successful in the case of Daisy Hill Hospital in stabilising services at a time when the Newry hospital services were under pressure in the Southern HSC Trust area.

Mr Hazzard said: “We had a very frank and honest engagement about the decisions taken by the SEHSCT recently and how these decisions have impacted upon the local community.

“I was encouraged to hear the SEHSCT acknowledge that communication has not been good enough, and that they recognise that the people of South Down were ‘poorly served’ during the first lockdown when both the Downe & Daisy Hill A&Es were closed. 

“There is no doubt that the longterm viability of the Downe Hospital has been undermined in recent years with the reduction in specialities on site such as the lack of in-patient Cardiology services and the loss of our 24hr A&E.

The Downe Hospital in Downpatrick, the centre of a political row where politicians and health campaigners are calling for a pathfinder group to be set up to oversee service improvements.

“As was argued at the time by the local community, these cuts have not only had a direct impact on the particular local patient needing to avail of the service, but the cumulative effect continues to limit the overall delivery model of services at the Downe.”

Mr Hazzard added: “This was seen in recent months as there was an absence of critical care back up at the Downe as a lack of Anaesthetic cover made the delivery of Emergency Care very difficult to sustain.

“Unless something is done to protect and enhance the availability of specialities and critical care cover in the future, the Downe will struggle to meet the emergency needs of the local community without relying on the Ulster Hospital in Belfast. 

“In order to begin this process I have requested that the SEHSCT and the Department for Health explore the possibility of establishing a ‘Pathfinder Project’ similar to the recent Southern Trust Pathfinder in Newry which had a very positive effect on the protection of services at the Daisy Hill Hospital. 

“This would not only enable us to benefit from an interactive and consistent process of public communication and consultation; but perhaps most importantly, it would demand a real and meaningful process of co-design with staff and their trade union representatives.”