The Health Minister has rubberstamped plans to close the emergency department at the Downe Hospital overnight — sparking fury from campaigners.
SDLP leader and South Down MP Margaret Ritchie accused Michael McGimpsey of making the decision — which means gravely ill patients living in rural areas such as Kilkeel, Kircubbin and Portaferry will have to travel to the Ulster Hospital at night — without consulting people who rely on the service.
Down council could launch High Court proceedings in a last- ditch effort to stop the controversial plans from being put in place.
Mr McGimpsey has given his approval to a range of proposals to change services in the South Eastern Trust — including downgrad
ing the A&E at the Downe Hospital to a minor injuries unit led by GPs between 10pm and 8am.
Service provision for mental health will also be overhauled — all acute psychiatric inpatients will be treated at Lagan Valley Hospital replacing facilities at the
Ulster, Downe and Lisburn sites.
Three day centres for people with disabilities will be replaced by a brand new purpose built facility and a refurbished centre.
Ms Ritchie called the decision “misguided and flawed”.
She said: “The minister undertook no direct consultation with the local community and has ignored the requirements of the people of Down and Mourne for A&E cover at night-time.
“He has ignored the basic principle of accessibility at the point of delivery — the very basis upon which the new hospital was designed. Whatever the explanations, one thing is for sure, the people of Down and Mourne will not take this lying down.”
Director of Hospital Services Seamus McGoran said: “We see this as a model for the future for local hospitals.”