Hundreds voice fears over potential closure of Daisy Hill A&E
Almost 1,000 people attended a public meeting in Newry last night to take a stand against the feared closure of Daisy Hill Hospital's Accident and Emergency department.
There was standing room only at the Canal Court Hotel as hundreds voiced their support to retain full-time emergency services at the hospital.
It comes after concerns were raised that a £1m contingency plan for staff shortages could be the first step towards the closure of the A&E department.
Proposals were approved that the services should be suspended at night.
Campaigners, however, say that patients will be forced to undertake a long trip to Craigavon Area Hospital during the night.
Sean McManus from the Newry Action Group spoke at last night's event.
"We had a tremendous meeting, the hall was packed with people," the Kilkeel man said.
"The message going forward is that the Southern Trust has to think again and think very seriously about their proposal to close the A&E.
"There was an empty seat for the Trust who didn't come to the meeting."
Medical representatives from the hospital also attended, as well as local politicians.
DUP Assembly member Jim Wells said: "This is not a debate about money but a debate about the fact that 10 consultants are required to run the A&E but they have two permanent staff and the rest are locums who will not be available during the summer.
"A solution to this problem that affects all hospitals in Northern Ireland needs to be found."
In a statement, the Southern Trust said: "Trust members will be updated on the ongoing efforts to secure a regional approach to safely maintaining the department on a 24/7 basis in light of the ongoing staffing challenges."