The five main local parties in South Down have met with the Down Community Health Committee and trade union representatives and agreed a joint position on key health service issues.
Following the meeting with local political parties hosted by South Down MP Chris Hazzard, an agreed Joint statement from the five parties and the Down Community Health Committee has been issued on key health service provision issues.
The meeting was held in Downpatrick at the St Patrick Centre on Thursday 23 July 2020.
The statement from Sinn Féin, SDLP, Alliance, UUP and DUP, said: “We had a very positive, constructive meeting this week with members of the Downe Community Health Committee and trade union representatives regarding the restoration of services at the Downe Hospital.
“In recent weeks our local community have grown increasingly anxious as the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust (SEHSCT) have been unable to provide a date for the re-opening of the Downe Emergency Department.
“It is our understanding that this date will now be announced next week by South Eastern HSC Trust management.
“Individually, and now collectively, we have reiterated to the South Eastern HSC Trust that it is essential for our community that all services are restored to the Downe Hospital at the earliest possible opportunity.
“South Down may be a rural community, but our community has rights. We are entitled to equality of access to healthcare.
“Rural citizens in Down have the same rights as the urban population of the greater Belfast area.
“Working constructively in partnership, we will continue to highlight these issues and look forward to engaging publicly with our community in the near future when social distancing guidelines allow.”
The meeting was held in the auditorium in the St Patrick Centre observing the current social distancing requirements.
In the UK there is a growing trend to support local hospitals closer to the point of need. Contrary to this, in Northern Ireland there has been a tendency to centralisation and rationalisation of services.
The local South Down MP Chris Hazzard, MLA’s and councillors are now all singing from the same hymn sheet collectively and will explore the necessary channels to ensure services are maintained and restored in the local hospitals in South Down.