Five years ago today, the then Health Minister Michael McGimpsey MLA officially opened the new Downe Hospital in Downpatrick amidst great optimism across Down District.
But within a year, tensions between South Eastern HSC Trust officials and local health campaigners and politicians had started to boil as changes to services began to emerge. The Trust has maintained its position that it has in fact increased the amount of patient footfall in the Downe Hospital and increased the range of services, whilst Down Community Health Committee-led campaigners have maintained that essential services such as coronary care and accident and emergency have been reduced causing a risk to life among other issues.[caption id="attachment_53404" align="alignright" width="350"] Jim Masson at the Downe Hospital last year – as a patient! Without a 24-hour accident and emergency at the Downe Hospital, patients must travel to Belfast or Dundonald for treatment.[/caption]
Rogers Fears Aim At Downe To Provide Quality Care Has Been Abandoned
Reflecting on the event, South Down MLA Seán Rogers has expressed serious concern that the commitment demonstrated at that time to bring quality healthcare to Downpatrick and its surrounding areas has been abandoned.
Mr Rogers said: “Make no mistake, the new Downe hospital was not gifted to the people of South Down. It was delivered because the need and the demand for services were largely being unmet. The Downe hospital addressed the inequality that existed in accessing local quality care and brought the service offered to those living in this part of South Down into step with other areas across Northern Ireland.
“Since its opening another agenda has been at play, a contradictory agenda that aims to reduce and remove many vital services from the hospital. Austerity budgets are only a part of the story behind the ongoing drive to remove these services.”
Mr Rogers has called on the public to continue using the Downe Hospital and to request services there from their medical practitioners when referrals are being made elsewhere. He said: “The Downe Hospital was hard fought for and won by those who went before me such as Eddie McGrady MP (RIP), we must ensure the public record on the demand for services is not lost if we are to retain and rebuild on the promises presented five years ago today.
“I will continue to be unwavering and committed in my work as a public representative to ensure the people of South Down have equal access to the vital services required from the Downe” added Mr Rogers.
Five years on and the Downe Hospital fight for services continues says McCallister[caption id="attachment_43269" align="alignleft" width="390"] Independent Unionist John McCallister MLA is backing the Down Community Health Committee.[/caption]
As the Downe Hospital sees it fifth anniversary on 17 June, Independent Unionist MLA for South Down, John McCallister has also re-affirmed his commitment to the Down Community Health Committee and their continuing fight for the retention of services at the Downe Hospital.
Mr McCallister said: “It was a fight to get the hospital completed and opened and we are still fighting to maintain some of its services. This is a fantastic hospital and I wholly support the call for not just the retention of its current services but also for the implementation of further services for the provision of first class tertiary health care for the constituents of South Down.
“I have been proudly supporting the efforts of the Downe Community Health Committee for many years and I take great encouragement from the unity of purpose that they constantly demonstrate. They have shown grit and determination throughout and their efforts and commitment to their cause are commendable.
“Alongside them I will continue the fight for improved staffing and services in the Downe”, added Mr McCallister.]]>