Health Minister Jim Wells has said he is “strongly of the view that the Downe Hospital is crucial to the local community and that it will continue to be an absolutely key component of healthcare for this area”.
He was speaking after the News Letter asked him to respond to the health rally in Downpatrick on Saturday of between 12,000 and 16,000 people in his constituency calling for him to enable the return of a full-time accident and emergency cover, as well as the recovery of coronary care and other wards.
Mr Wells added: “I am sure you are aware of the recent debate in the Assembly when the future of both the Downe and Daisy Hill Hospitals were discussed.
“During that debate I referred to the assurances I have received from the management team at the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust that the Downe Hospital will continue to play a vibrant and vital role in the acute network which will deliver essential hospital services now and in the future.”
The Downe Hospital was opened in 2009 at a cost of £64 million. Since January 2014 the A&E department has been closed at weekends.
The recent Donaldson report into health care provision recommended reducing the number of hospitals across the Province.