Unions oppose moving some A&E services north

Trade unions are opposing the movement of some emergency department services from Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry to Craigavon Area Hospital.

A decision has been taken to move emergency inpatient abdomen surgery 20 miles north due to a shortage of doctors.

Local trade union representatives from the Ulster Teachers Union, NI Public Service Alliance, Irish National Teachers’ Organisation and politicians attended a meeting called by Unite community branch activists in Newry to discuss the matter today.

Unite community branch spokesperson Martin McKeown said: “This was a good start to what is a life or death campaign for communities across south Armagh and Down and indeed across the border in Dundalk.

PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 11th June 2018 STOCK IMAGE Coronavirus outbreak at second NI hospital, several medical staff at Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry have been forced to self isolate. Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

“If trust proposals to end emergency surgery at Newry are allowed to proceed, it means the end of our emergency department. What will be left? - aside from a minor injuries unit and a stabilisation facility to allow people to be sent up the road to Craigavon.

“The meeting agreed that we need to be making the case for a split-site ICU across both Newry and Craigavon. It’s the only sustainable way to keep our surgeons. That will mean Anaethetists working across two sites but it is vital if this community is not to bear the brunt of losing access to accident and emergency.” The decision will pose immediate problems for maternity at Newry. How can birth complications be safe if there’s no emergency surgery?”

A Southern Trust spokeswoman responded that the changes have come about because they only have two general emergency surgery doctors - specialising in the abdomen - and that one of them is about to leave. As a result, anyone who arrives at Daisy Hill from 28 February and needs inpatient emergency surgery to the abdomen will be sent to Craigavon Area Hospital.

“From 28 February, all general emergency surgical patients requiring inpatient assessment in the Southern Trust will be admitted to Craigavon Area Hospital until a full consultation on a sustainable future service model has been completed with outcomes agreed,” she said.

This is a “contingency solution” to address a very immediate and major patient safety risk and was approved at a Public Trust Board meeting on Thursday 27 January.

“There will be no change to the Emergency Department at Daisy Hill which will continue to operate as usual on a 24/7 basis.” There will be a public consultation on a longer-term best practice model for the issues, she added.

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