Political Anger As Health Minister Agrees Trust Proposals
IN a tough statement pulling no punches SDLP Leader and South Down MP Margaret Ritchie MLA has said the Minister for Health’s decision to remove A&E night time cover at the new Downe hospital is “ill-advised, misguided and flawed”.
Ms Ritchie said, “I am extremely disappointed with the Minister’s decision to rubber stamp the South Eastern Trust’s proposal to remove consultant A&E night time cover from the new Downe hospital and replace it with GP-led cover from 10pm each night to 8am in the morning.
“The Minister undertook no direct consultation with the local community and has ignored the requirements of the people of Down and Mourne for A&E cover at night time.
“He has ignored the basic principle of accessibility at the point of delivery – the very basis upon which the new hospital was designed.
“He has also approved plans to relocate acute psychiatry from the Down area to Lagan Valley hospital.
“No cognisance has been taken of the evidence base which clearly illustrated the fact that ambulances have been by-passing the Downe Hospital to take emergency case patients to Belfast hospitals.
“There are several questions the Minister must answer. Did the Minister undertake an equality impact assessment and if so where are the results?
“What will be the impact of such decisions on the acute medical care of the people of Down and Mourne?
“Was any rural-proofing or testing for impact on the the rural community of Down and Mourne carried out?
“Whatever the explanations one thing is for sure the people of Down and Mourne will not take this lying down.
“We will fight this all the way and examine every avenue in order to reverse this decision even if it means going to court.”
We will fight this all the way and examine every avenue in order to reverse this decision even if it means going to court.
“I also believe that further and ongoing discussions are required to take place involving the South Eastern Trust, the local Council, Down Community Health Committee and public representatives.
“Regarding the promotion and enhancement of services, robust procedures need to be put in place to access new services and clients for the Downe Hospital to underpin the central core of the facility.
“Other areas to be explored and implemented include a more rigorous procedure for the recruitment of middle grade doctors, and the sharing of middle grade doctors throughout the hospital facilities within the South Eastern Trust, ensuring that the protocols are in place to make provision for the treatment of as wide a range of people from the Down and Mourne area, minimising the by-passing of the Downe hospital by ambulances taking patients to other hospitals.
“The public want to see that the Trust will not implement this decision, or if it does it will be able at a later stage to revert to 24 hour Consultant led services.
“The simple message is that GP’s, the Trust and the community must encourage the people of Down and Mourne to use the services and facilities at the Downe Hospital.
“The Downe Hospital is open for business and as a community we must support it through this difficult time, to ensure the continuation of existing services and build a strong case for the return of our A&E 24 hour Consultant led service.”