Campaigners working to maintain a 24-hour casualty unit at Downe Hospital have vowed to continue with their fight despite health bosses backing a plan to close it at night.
The partial closure of the A&E facility is now one step closer after the Health and Social Care Board yesterday gave the green light for the controversial plans to go ahead.
This rubber-stamps a decision by the South Eastern Trust Board at a public meeting earlier this week.
There is growing anger after the Health and Social Care Board, which is in charge of commissioning services for the NHS in Northern Ireland, yesterday approved plans to downgrade the A&E between 10pm and 8am.
John Compton, chief executive of the board, said he fully understood the concerns of those who may fear a downgrading of the hospital.
But he said the development was in the best future interests of patients, the trust’s staff and the wider community.
“These proposals strike a very necessary balance between the resources at the trust’s disposal, its capacity to recruit and maintain the skills of staff, and local accessibility,” he said.
“This is not about cutting back upon what the trust provides, but of putting itself in a stronger position for what the future will require of it.”
South Down MP Margaret Ritchie has vowed to continue the fight to save the service and is planning to raise the objections of her constituents with the Health Minister.
Following approval by the board, the plans are due before Michael McGimpsey for his consideration. It is the final step required before the plans can be implemented.
Ms Ritchie said: “This is a priority for me and I will be raising it with the minister as soon as possible.
“I believe the people of South Down have the right to locally accessible services.”