Local People Speak Up About Serious Hardships Due To Changing Health Policies


A number of people have contacted Down News to share their personal stories about what it means to them to have to go to a hospital in Belfast to be treated. They have shared their personal details in the hope that others may understand the difficulties they have faced and may continue to face in accessing their health services.

[caption id="attachment_43269" align="alignleft" width="390"]The new Downe A&E in Downpatrick under pressure because no doctors are available for night and weekend duty.   The new Downe A&E in Downpatrick under pressure because no doctors are available for night and weekend duty.[/caption]

While the arguments about hospital centralisation still rage, and they are immensely complex, and while confidence in the South Eastern HSC Trust is at an all time low following the cut back to the opening hours at the Downe Hopsital A&E, with local politicans and the public all demanding that these services be restored, Down News has spoken to a small number of people affected by the cuts. Read their personal, harrowing stories below.

And local health campaigners too are arguing that this kind of qualitative data needs to be inputed more into future strategy for the delivery of local health services with confidence and trust restored once again in the Downe Hospital.

Their personal stories.

1) Janine Byrne from Ardglass

My husband was due to have a hernia operation in the Mater Hospital this morning (last week) at 7.30am but he received a call from them at 9pm last nite to inform him it had to be cancelled due to the pressure of the A&E overflow that has been caused by the closing of the Downe A&E at 8pm and now he has to wait another appointment which they were to contact him this morning with but still NO Call.

They said that they are having to bring in more staff and set up another unit to deal with their own appointments plus deal with the pressure of the A&E overflow. I just don’t understand how they can bring in more staff to there when they can just open the Downe A&E to relieve the pressure – it’s a disgrace and he has been waiting on this for quite a while. They really need to do something quickly!


2)  Joan McAuley from Downpatrick.

I’m a widow on benefits – in August my 15-year old son choked on a piece of meat.  ( He has heart disease ). I took him to Downpatrick A&E – we were there for 5 hours and they told me at 11.30pm at night to take him to the Royal Victoria Hospital – I told them I had no transport as I don’t own a car and they said there was nothing they could do but my son needed to get to the Royal as soon as possible;

I had to pay £30 to a taxi driver to take me to Belfast  on a single trip – my son was kept in hospital for five days …this happens to me all the time when my sick child needs to go to hospital – I agree we need the Downe hospital but for me I’d be safer getting a bus to Belfast. The journey is just very long and difficult for people like me and my son. 

My son has sub-aortic stenosis … he also has problems with his stomach at the moment. I’m waiting over a year for him to be seen by a consultant as he needs to have camera tests done in the Royal to find out what’s going on in his stomach and bowel. My son is very unassuming and wants no-one to know how ill he is. 

He’s been like that from his daddy died five years ago.

He just gets on with life  – it’s just I worry about him a terrible lot he will be needing open heart surgery in the next couple of years and I don’t even know if they will be doing it in the Royal. They are sending heart patients to Dublin and Birmingham so I’m none the wiser. 


3) Nathan Clarke from Castlewellan.

My own story started on 27 December 2012 when my wife brought me to the Downe A&E with breathing probs and I saw one of my own GP’s – they were excellent and brilliant. I was admitted and unfortunately I have terminal cancer but the staff and doctors were reassuring and excellent. On 8 January 2013 I was diagnosed with cancer. I would have been in a much more destresed state if I had to travel 30 miles to Belfast. The journey would be much more difficult me me.


4) Anthony Grant concerned for his sister from Killough.

My preganant sister-in-law went in to labour in Killough. She went to A&E in the Downe and they couldn’t do nothing for her there so they sent her in a ambulance to the Ulster Hospital… she ended up giving birth at the traffic lights in Saintfield due to no staff in the Downe who help with the birth.


5)  A Woman from Ardglass near Downpatrick.

The case of an eldery woman who arrived by ambulance yesterday (Monday) – who lives alone and has no dependents. She had chest complications and could not breath and was very distressed. She is being assessed etc. There appeared to be a problem of a bed shortage in the Downe Hospital as she was not admitted there but was sent by ambulance to the Ulster Hospital at 8pm in the evening. 

This lady is now an in-patient at the Ulster Hospital being assessed – her sisters and nieces have to travel a round 60-mile trip to see her at considerable expense and provide support from what would have been previously an easy  12-mile round journey to Downpatrick. This is adding another massive  green footprint and more human misery to this unacceptible centralisation policy at the Belfast Hospitals.