Responses To The Downe Hospital Services’ Changes

Downe Hospital to play key role in COVID-19 Fight – Hazzard.

South Down MP Sinn Féin’s Chris Hazzard has said plans to temporarily overhaul health services in the South Eastern HSC Trust area, including the Downe Hospital in Downpatrick, represent “an extraordinary measure for an extraordinary time.”

Speaking following a discussion with senior South Eastern HSC Trust officials this morning on the Trust’s radical plans to deal with the ongoing Covid-19 emergency, Mr Hazzard said: “Undoubtedly this emergency plan represents extraordinary measures for an extraordinary time so that our local health system has the maximum ability to meet the inevitable demand that we will face in the weeks ahead as we quickly approach the critical surge.

“From 8am on Monday the focus of the Downe Hospital will be directed at critical care for inpatients, and with additional beds now in place, the Downe will play a vital role in the urgent repatriation of patients away from the COVID-19 frontline in the Ulster Hospital.

“In order to meet these challenges the Emergency Department, Minor Injuries, Day procedures & Outpatient Clinics will be temporarily unavailable at the Downe during this crisis.

“GP out of hours and Mental Health services will remain unaffected. The Trust are also enhancing care at home packages for the vulnerable and elderly in our community.

“Understandably the local community will be concerned on hearing about these dramatic changes to our local hospital – some may even be angry. But during this global health emergency we must put our faith and support in the expert health practitioners who are best placed to take these decisions.

“I also welcome the public commitment from the South Eastern HSC Trust that these are strictly temporary measures to meet the unprecedented challenges represented by the Coronavirus pandemic and will not become a permanent reality.

“In the days ahead many queries and issues will arise from this announcement – both from the public and indeed from those who work in the health and social care system. Sinn Féin will continue to engage with the Trust and other agencies to ensure there is public confidence in this radical approach.

“With this in mind we have today written to the Ambulance Service to ask that they urgently reassess their capacity to meet the subsequent needs of our local community on the back of this announcement.

“Finally, I would like to call on the local community to do all in their power to help and assist our health and social care workers who find themselves at the frontline in the battle against COVID-19.

“They are doing an incredible job in the most challenging of circumstances to keep us all safe, so we must demonstrate real social solidarity in order to help and support them in the unprecedented crisis ahead.”

Down Community Health Committee Chairman Responds.

Eamonn McGrady, Chairman of the Down Community health Committee, said: “We are facing a national emergency currently and we must do what we can to address the issues of the Covid-19 outbreak which could be devastating for our community. 

“The closure of the ED at the Downe is a very serious loss but we have to look at the situation of where we are at the the moment. The health system is under serious pressure to cope and they expect a spike in coronavirus cases soon. 

“The Trust will be re-training some staff on short notice to cope with the influx of patients expected in the coming weeks. This inevitably means curtailing some other important services.

“We, however, have a concern about how the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service is going to cope with this very difficult situation as it unfolds as they will require more ambulances and their front line staff will be under severe pressure especially if some of them take ill.

“The changes to the Downe services are far-reaching and significant. They are temporary measures I understand and we will eventually get back to normal once the coronavirus is under control. We must all now continue with social distancing and self-isolation and observe the essentials in washing our hands etc that the various agencies have been constantly promoting.

“We will be keeping an eye on health service provision going forward but appreciate the difficult circumstances we are it just now.”

South Down SDLP MLA Colin McGrath Calls For Assurances

The SDLP’s South Down MLA Colin McGrath has called for assurances that services at the Downe Hospital will be restored following the coronavirus pandemic.

Commenting after the NI Assembly Health Committee meeting, the South Down Assemblyman said: “These are unprecedented times and are obviously calling for an unprecedented response.  

“Throughout my political career I have never wanted to see the reduction of services at the Downe Hospital. However, if this must happen, this will be part of our community’s contribution to fighting this invisible illness and it will help to save lives, then it is something that must be done.

“I have spoken with both the Chief Executive of the South Eastern Trust, the Health Minister and the Deputy First Minister and made clear that I and the people of South Down need assurances that this reconfiguration will be temporary and that the services will be returned when this pandemic is contained.  

“These are worrying times for all within our community and I commend the ongoing work of the health sector staff in hospitals, nursing homes and the wider community.  Their effort and works will go a long way towards saving lives.

“This is a situation that nobody could have foreseen and I give my support to the wider health and social care family in their incredible response and management of this global pandemic.  

“I also want to re-assure the staff and local community that when this virus passes – and it will pass – that I will be there for them to ensure that our services at the Downe Hospital are returned.”