Strangford Clinic Closure Threat Brings Residents Out In Protest

RESIDENTS in Strangford village and the local area are up in arms  following a proposal to remove a local clinic.

On Friday 30 June, local people received surveys from the health and Social care Board as part of a review into the future viability of health services at Strangford Clinic.

[caption id="attachment_50729" align="alignleft" width="390"]Some of the elderly residents in Strangford with protest organiser  Roison Curran and Councillor Naomi Bailie. Some of the elderly residents in Strangford with protest organiser Roison Curran, centre,  and Councillor Naomi Bailie, back left. [/caption]

Strangford campaigner Roisin Curran said: “The disappointment at this proposed closure is visible throughout the village of Strangford. Residents are angry that the only medical service available in the radius of eight miles is being threatened and we feel let down.

“The protest is to highlight that the people using the service are not going to stand back and allow this closure to happen. I would encourage everyone to make a special effort in attending the protest event on Monday and show that we are united against the application for closure.”

Local resident Maria Noble said: “Local people are angry at the possible loss of their clinic. Many people here today are the elderly. They are the ones who will be impacted the most by this cut. Transport to Downpatrick is the biggest problem. Taxis are just too expensive at £14 one way, and the bus service is unsuitable for many  is erratic, and many elderly people don’t drive.”

One 76-year old who did not wish to be named said: “Taking two buses at my age is riduculous to go to a clinic when a nurse or doctor could easily attend in Strangford. This proposal is just not safe.

Pat McDermott said: “It wil impact very heavily on those who are most vulnerable in our society in Strangford. There is no excuse fro not making the maximum use of the clinic that we do have. There will certainly been a huge amount of travelling and a big loss of money for us all. We needs local nurses on hand.”

Local Down District Councillors have reacted strongly supporting the residents who are demanding that their service continue at the current venue.

Bailie Says Cut To Strangford Clinic Unacceptable

Councillor Naomi Bailie (Sinn Féin) said: “I have written to the HSCB for the Southern LCG outlining the issues. When they ran a review of the Killough clinic last year, local people then agreed following a well-=attended public meeting to accept the merger with the Ardglass Health Clinic. However, Strangford is a very isolated community and does not have that option.

[caption id="attachment_50730" align="alignright" width="390"]Strangford children get into the protest. Strangford children get into the protest.[/caption]

“Therefore any option other than an onsite clinic is not viable as Strangford is so isolated and there are also difficulties in access to services. I understand that local people fear the centralisation of their health services to Downpatrick where Dr Small and Dr Moore currently have their main surgery. If this happened, some patients would have to take a two bus journey lasting over an hour. The cost of this journey too is considerable.

“Bus transport is only available at intermittent times of the day and does not suit may people such as mums with caring responsibilities.

“The proposal to cut this service is unacceptible. I have asked the HSCB to reconsider its options. This area will suffer rural disadvantage due to its poor connectivity with other towns and poor transport links. Many of the users of this service are senior citizens and have mobility issues and many don’t drive. Therefore, further stripping of the health service in Strangford is unacceptable and must stop. Those at risk in our community and the very young and old, and the disabled and those who are genuinely ill.”

Ms Bailie added that she indicated hse understood that Dr Moore had made representation to the HSCB and that he was planning to resign from his practice. Alternative GP health practitioners are certainly an option.

She said: “I have therefore requested an urgent update in the position around the HSCB, the South Eastern HSC Trust and Dr Moore’s retirement from practice. Also, I have encouraged the HSCB to ensure that this review process is open and transparent and I have requested a public meeting on this matter.”

Residents Shocked By Potential Closure Says Sharvin

Local patients and residents of the Strangford Community Clinic have been left in shock after receiving news that the Dr Moore and Small practice who run the clinic have submitted an application for closure for their one day a week service in the clinic said Councillor Gareth Sharvin. He said: “Patients of the clinic have received questionnaires seeking their views of the proposed closure.

[caption id="attachment_50731" align="aligncenter" width="540"]Protesters in Strangford who want the local clinic to remain open. Protesters in Strangford who want the local clinic to remain open.[/caption]

Councillor Gareth Sharvin (SDLP) who is working with the residents of Strangford in tackling the proposed closure, said:  “Patients are right to feel let down by the doctors. The doctors are providing a key service to their patients and with proposed closure will affect those that depend on a local service.”

“A key example in highlighting how key this service is to the area of Strangford is from two patients who use the service. Both are in their 80’s, the wife is unable to drive due to severe arthritis and has to attend doctors’ appointments frequently. The husband is finding driving difficult now, due to having both hips replaced. What both said to me, having to use public transport to visit the clinic at the Downe Hospital does not bear thinking about! With their personal medical history, both would be expected to make a total of 4 bus journeys totalling 20 miles to get to an appointment. The Health Minister continues to state his aim in transforming the health system, does this transformation involve making rural residents suffer with closures?

“This is not the first time the Strangford Community Clinic has been targeted for health service cuts. Only back in February, myself along with patients and community groups mounted a full campaign against the proposed closure of the treatment room provided by the South Eastern Health and Social Trust. The treatment room is provided to support the Dr Moore and Small surgery and the service is delivered through the district nursing team.

“It was only some four months ago we won our fight with the South Eastern HSC Trust. A joint statement with Nicki Patterson, Director and Roisin Coulter, Director from the South Eastern Health and Social Care Board, a commitment was made that the treatment room would be provided for the Strangford Community Clinic as long as required.

“However, the proposed closure by Dr Moore and Small is not only threatening the future of the medical surgery, it is threatening the future of the clinic as a whole. If the doctor surgery closes, the Trust would not be required to provide the treatment room any longer. This would leave the people of Strangford, Kilclief, Ballyhornan, Bishopscourt, Audleystown, Ballyculter, Raholp and surrounding areas without a immediate access to a medical clinic.”

Councillor Sharvin aded: “From the recent campaign to save the treatment room at the Strangford Community Clinic, it was found that the service was attended by a minimum of 8 patients each week, reflecting a total of 64 patients during a monthly period.

“Local residents, patients and community groups in the Strangford area has organised a protest to the closure of the clinic for Monday 30 of June.

Councillor Gareth Sharvin added:  “I have already written to the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust, the Health and Social Care Board and a letter has been written to the Health Minster, Edwin Poots for his support in protecting the clinic’s future.”