A ‘regional summit’ will be held to explore options for keeping an emergency department (ED) open at Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry.
The Southern Trust has said it is “fully committed” to the hospital and will maintain the service as long as it can be operated safely.
Earlier this week, the trust’s medical director Dr Richard Wright said that despite the pay and conditions for ED consultants being “more attractive than any other job [of its kind] financially in Northern Ireland,” there had been no applicants to fill the vacancies at Daisy Hill.
Dr Wright also said that if the department was not appropriately staffed then it would not be right to encourage patients to attend.
Almost 53,000 people attended the hospital’s emergency department last year. If services are suspended, patients will be forced to travel to Craigavon Area Hospital instead.
Following a meeting of the trust board at Craigavon on Thursday, interim chief executive Stephen McNally said he had asked the Department of Health to host the regional summit which is expected to take place early next week.
“The trust board is fully committed to Daisy Hill Hospital, and will explore every option to keep the emergency department open, as long as services can be safely provided,” he said.
“This summit will bring together the collective expertise of health professionals from across Northern Ireland to support our efforts in maintaining the service in future,” Mr McNally added.
The summit will include the Health and Social Care Board, the Public Health Agency, Belfast Trust, the Ambulance Service, the NI Medical and Dental Training Agency and the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority.
There were angry scenes at Thursday’s meeting when a number of political representatives, as well as a top hospital consultant, accused the board of deliberately downgrading Daisy HIll.
SDLP MLA Justin McNulty said there was “a real anger and fear in the community at the possible withdrawal of services,” and added: “This is a very clear indication that the trust is planning long term closure of Daisy Hill.”