Rogers Calls For Restoration Of 24/7 A&E Services at Downe Hospital
SOUTH Down SDLP MLA Seán Rogers has called on the Health Minister Edwin Poots to urgently intervene and reinstate critical A&E services at the Downe Hospital in Downpatrick. He will be introducing an Adjournment Debate at the Assembly later this afternoon.
Speaking ahead of a debate in the Assembly about the issue, Mr Rogers said Mr Poots should be working for the community to ensure services at Downe Hospital are extended, not reduced. He paid tribute to the late Eddie McGrady, SDLP MP and hospital campaigner who fought for the Downe Hospital, and also to ‘hard pressed, front line staff’ for their ‘dedication and professionalism’.
Mr Rogers said: “The community feels vulnerable, isolated and worried because the Downe Hospital has borne its share of cuts.
“Each cut happens because of a situation which has arisen; and this situation has been allowed to happen by the South Eastern Trust. The Trust instigates the action and the community feel the pain. It is a vicious circle. The Downe Hospital doesn’t get a chance and we’ve seen that as recently as January 3 when Accident and Emergency Services were again reduced at the Downe Hospital.”
Mr Rogers said the Minister’s argument as to why A&E services had been reduced – a shortage in middle grade doctors – isn’t good enough; and added instead that the Minister must demonstrate the political will to provide a system which allows for the best care possible for patients.
Mr Rogers added:“The Minister cannot forever say it’s an operational matter. He must intervene to ensure that Downe’s A&E service is restored to 24/7 cover.”
The Assemblyman raised the implications of stripping Downe Hospital of its A&E on ambulance cover.
He said: “This idea of an extra ambulance is misleading. After its first trip to Belfast it is called into service to meet the needs of the wider Belfast area. It is lost to Downpatrick.
“How long must the people of the Downpatrick area have to wait on ‘999’ ambulance service from Kilkeel, Newry or Bangor? What about the ‘golden hour’ – the window of opportunity in which medical intervention can save a life, or significantly increase the chance of a full recovery? Trauma patients in rural areas have a greater likelihood of needing advanced care and are less likely to receive it.”
Mr Rogers called on the Health Minister to ensure the Trust meeting scheduled for January 29 is moved to Downpatrick to allow the officials to hear first-hand the level of concern in the area.
He said: “Does the Minister support this call? The Health Minister must now intervene and put in place an effective strategy that deals with the demand for A&E services, including that at Downe Hospital.
“We need democracy returned to the Health Service, engagement with the public and we need services at the Downe Hospital extended not reduced. There must be consultation with staff, unions, the community and politicians when decisions with such serious ramifications are taken. The Minister must also remember that unfortunately A&E provision is necessary to accommodate visitors to the area, and those who participate in sporting fixtures.
“The Minister needs to find a solution to the issue of medical understaffing in order to ensure high-quality and speedy services for both rural communities and for people in Belfast. The staff must be found to allow A&E units to operate effectively and in the best interests of patients across this region.
“Downe Hospital must not be stripped of its services but, unfortunately, it seems as though this is already happening.
“The uncomfortable truth behind this reality is that lack of access to immediate medical assistance may, in some cases, be the difference between life and death, so we must do all that is possible to make sure 24/7 A&E services are restored at Downe Hospital.”