Fears for Emergency Department at Daisy Hill

Thursday, 6 April 2017

UNITE the union have said that any attempt to close down the Daisy Hill Emergency Department by 'sleight-of-hand' must be resisted.

At a public meeting held last Thursday, The Southern Health and Social Care Trust Board were updated on the staffing challenges facing the Emergency Department (ED).

The Trust made it clear that it "remains committed to maintaining the Emergency Department, and thanks to the dedication and hard work of staff, the ED has been running 24 hours, seven days a week."

However, it warned that the service remains "vulnerable to the short notice withdrawal of senior medical cover" and that this is particularly so during the summer months when there is a less secure supply of locum consultants.

It also warned that if there is any risk to patient safety due to lack of senior medical cover at night, "the ED will temporarily suspend the service until suitable medical cover becomes available"

This move has been described as "a last resort", with the Trust making it clear that "every effort" would be made to avoid any reduction in hours in the short term.

But in a hard hitting statement Kevin McAdam, Unite Regional Officer with responsibility for Health and Social Care workers, said: "Unite the union stands opposed to any diminution of facilities at Daisy Hill hospital.

“Today's statement by the Southern HSCT will send a shudder of fear into the local community in that area who know that this is likely the precursor to a decision to close the Emergency Department in that hospital.

“HSC trusts justify decisions to close facilities on the basis of an inability to recruit the requisite staff but there is a strong sense that these are manufactured crises which enable the Trusts to make decisions that are known to be strongly opposed locally.

“The loss of regional Emergency Departments has more to do with implementing austerity budgets than either objective medical needs or the difficulty in recruiting consultants."

“As Britain's and Ireland's largest union, Unite welcomed the commitment to co-production of health reform and we engaged in this process in good faith. Sleight-of-hand announcements like this cut across such a participative and empowering approach to improving our health and social care service."

SDLP MLA Justin McNulty has called for urgent action to secure the future of the Emergency Department, and is due to meet the Acting Chief Executive of the Trust this week.

‘'The staffing crisis facing Daisy Hill Emergency Department is nothing new," he declared.

“They have been relying exclusively on locum cover since the end of January 2017. Last November I raised this issue with the then Health Minister Michelle O'Neill in the Assembly Chamber. I was aware of the pending retirement of a senior medic within the department and could see this hurtling down the track."

Meanwhile, an emergency motion confirming opposition to the proposals from the Trust to suspend services at Daisy Hill hospital, brought by Sinn Féin, was due to be debated before Newry, Mourne & Down District Council last night (Monday).


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