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South Down MLA's To Meet Health Minister
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Health Minister Edwin Poots Says He Is Fully Committed To The Provision Of The Best Available Healthcare.

MINISTER Poots has met with senior staff of the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust at the Ulster Hospital in Dundonald.

Among topics discussed were, reform and modernisation proposals, Lagan Valley Hospital and service delivery issues pertaining to the Trust.

The Minister said, “Discussions between myself and the Trusts are extremely important. I remain acutely aware of the significant challenges the health service faces in delivering the services that people need and like all our healthcare providers, the difficult decisions that it will be necessary to take to maintain the provision of high quality care and treatment.

“I want to reiterate that I am fully committed to the provision of the best available healthcare for all our patients not just in the South Eastern Trust Area but throughout the whole of Northern Ireland.”

During his visit the Minister toured the Emergency Department, Regional Plastic and Maxillo Facial Surgery Unit and the Maternity Unit at the hospital.

Mr Poots added, “I am very impressed by the enhanced facilities and with the dedicated staff at the hospital, who continue to work diligently to provide the very best of care to the local population.”

The Pound Lane clinic is just one issue facing local health care as plans are now ongoing to move its services to the Downe Hospital.

However, the reaction in Co Down within the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust area has been mixed from the MLA’s. There is a rapidly changing health environment and politicians, health administrators and professionals, community health campaigners, the public and even the media will be faced with a redefining of relationships, some from previously adversarial roles to more partnership-based approaches.

South Down MLA’s Comment On September Meeting With Poots

DUP MLA Jim Wells, tipped to be the NI Health Minister in two years time, said, “I can reveal that the Minister has asked all six of the South Down MLA’s to a meeting in September to discuss service provision at the Downe.

“I do not think that there will be any change to the present A&E cover as the Down District has already suffered the type of reductions that have recently been announced at the Lagan Valley and Belfast City A&E departments.

“However, I am concerned the Health Board Commissioning Plan has flagged up the future of the midwifery-led maternity units at both the Downe and Laganvalley. I believe that this is an issue that the entire Down community should watch closely.

“The supply of doctors and consultants at every level is dominating health provision in Northern Ireland at present and I notice that a similar situation applies in the Irish Republic.

“This will problem will continue as long as these essential staff can continue to dictate where and when they work. There will always be a preference for the large city-based teaching hospitals. The legislation must be changed to make it compulsory for staff to work in the hospitals where they are needed rather than where they would like to work,” added Mr Wells.

UUP South Down MLA John McCallister said, “I have always maintained that the debate in Down over the health services would erode public confidence. I have personally kept close to the South eastern HSC Trust and O believe so far the Out Of Hours GP service at the Downe A&E has worked well and confidence in it is positive.

“However, there are still people who seem to go on to the hospitals in Belfast and I would like to see everthing done to promote stability in the confidence of this important service in the Down area. In my constituency work I have had no complaints so far. The Downe A&E model looks sustainable. It may well not be exactly as good as a consultant-led, 24-hour service but we have to consider that the Downe was never going to be competing with other big hospitals in terms of numbers of patients presenting themselves to the A&E.

“It will be very interesting to see the South Eastern HSC Trust evaluation of the Downe A&E when it comes. The fact that the A&E service is working is  significant and we literally could have been left with no service at all.

“I will continue my close contact with the Trust. We might even see the services recently curtailed in the Lisburn A&E repaced back to normal. We really have to consider the fact that we could have been left with nothing in the A&E service in Downpatrick.

South Down Sinn Féin MLA Willie Clarke said, “When the Downe Hospital opened in 2009, we were told it would have in place a range of services including a 24-hour consultant led Accident and Emergency Unit, a day procedure unit, outpatient department, maternity, rehabilitation and diagnostics services. Lack of funding has led to a situation whereby we now have reduced beds and cuts in services at the Accident and Emergency Department.

“A new £64 million hospital has the potential to provide the local community with access to a wide range of services, including a 24-hour Consultant led Accident and Emergency Department. To achieve this, the South Eastern HSC Trust and the Department of Health must honour their commitments and fund these much needed services.  Sinn Féin are committed to ensuring everyone has a proper standard of healthcare and the new Downe Hospital should ensure a range of services are available in this locality in what is a state-of-the-art building.

“Local people also have a part to play in the future success of Downe Hospital. I would encourage where possible, the use of services available and particularly the use of our maternity ward, which would help to strengthen the capacity of the hospital to bring other services on board in the future.”

South Down Sinn Féin MLA Caitriona Ruane added, “As a Sinn Fein representative I strive to promote the type of Ireland that our citizens deserve, an Ireland of equals.  Sinn Féin continues to lead the debate in Health Care provision across the island and over the last two years we have been the only party to robustly challenge the cuts from Westminster which have so profoundly impacted on the level of service our departments can deliver.

“It is vital that front line services are protected in any future assessment of health provision across South Down. From the Downe in the east of the county, to the Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry, we must not continue on the road of cutting front line services. Health will become a commodity based on the ability to pay rather than need. This is a dangerous road to go down; instead we need to see a local service providing for local people free at the point of delivery.

“I will be meeting with the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust over the months ahead in order to ensure that the citizens of South Down are afforded a first class health provision and how I can assist their ability to deliver that service,” she said.

South Down MLA Margaret Ritchie MP was currently  unavailable for comment.

At a Health Committee meeting of Down District Council yesterday evening (Thursday 18th August), representatives of the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust led  by Chief Executive Hugh McCaughey made a presentation on the performance of health services at the Downe Hospital and in particular explained why the GP-led Out Of Hours A&E service has come about. (Full report of the meeting in Down News at: )