re: Downe A&E cuts announced by South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust
2014 has opened with widespread anger around Downpatrick and District at the sudden announcement by the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust that they are experiencing a critical shortage of medical staff in both the Downe and Lagan Valley Emergency Departments and were thus forced to cut back on weekend working. This leaves local doctors operating an ‘Out of Hours’ at weekends and night-time at the Downe on their own.
The Monday before Christmas I attended a 3 1/2 hour emergency meeting between the Trust and local elected representatives at the Down Civic Centre in the Downshire Estate on the Ardglass Road to demand answers on why Accident and Emergency services were being cut at weekends with suggestions that we travel to the Ulster hospital instead.
We were able to extract a promise from Trust management that when sufficient staff had been recruited, normal service would resume. The Trust also promised to brief us on progress towards this goal.
Suspicions exist that Lisburn and Downpatrick are being sacrificed to enable the Ulster to build up its numbers to resist being culled when the realization hits that we don’t need four major hospitals in Belfast. 45% of admissions to the Ulster are already from Belfast. Real people live beyond Carryduff.
The inability to recruit and retain middle-grade doctors to work in A&E points to poor planning and raises issues about the competency of Health Service management over a 15 year period since this problem has become widely acknowledged. Solutions should have been found long ago.
At a time of huge graduate unemployment and emigration only 250 doctors are being trained every year in the North. Of these 100 are overseas students who will return home, and an average of 50 are emigrating annually on graduation.
You don’t need to be a brain surgeon to figure out that we should have been training at least 100 more per annum for many years, and that Trusts ought to be allowed to sponsor students who agree to work in scarce specialities for a number of years after graduating.
Roads infrastructure in South Down is very different compared to Lisburn or the Ulster which are minutes away from a selection of A&E hospitals in Belfast, Craigavon and Antrim. Some parts of Down District would require travelling 40 miles to the Ulster Hospital A&E or Daisy Hill in Newry. This is just unacceptable. Several local people described to me how that they would have died had they not been treated at Downe A&E over the last few years.
A solution must be found soon.
Cllr Cadogan Enright