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Emergency meeting called over threat to Daisy Hill's A&E unit

By Allan Preston

A summit meeting has been called over the future of a Northern Ireland hospital's A&E unit.

The Southern Health Trust said the emergency department at Newry's Daisy Hill was unsustainable and relying too heavily on locum doctors.

Yesterday the trust requested a regional summit with the Department of Health. It will start next week. The trust's medical director, Dr Richard Wright, told the BBC the issue needed regional support.

Angry scenes unfolded outside the trust's headquarters as members of the public tried to gain access to the board meeting.

The crunch meeting came after warnings that the department may temporarily close overnight due to staff shortages.

Last month the trust said a temporary suspension of the service overnight would be a last resort.

Alliance MLA Paula Bradshaw said the issue showed the need to restore an Executive.

"My colleague Councillor Patrick Brown and I have lobbied to emphasise the unacceptability of making significant decisions over the future of healthcare services in the area based on budgets rather than people," she said.

"I am concerned the consultation on options will go ahead without any apparent sense of how it fits into the overall strategy for transformation of our health and social care system."

She added: "This transformation is the single most important issue we have at devolved level, which is why we should have a Health Minister back in place and a Health Committee scrutinising the work without delay."

The Southern Trust's interim chief executive, Stephen McNally, said the rust board remained "fully committed" to Daisy Hill Hospital and "will explore every option to keep the Emergency Department open, as long as services can be safely provided."

"This summit will bring together the collective expertise of health professionals from across Northern Ireland to support our efforts in maintaining the service in future," he said.

The summit will be attended by staff from the Health and Social Care Board, the Public Health Agency, Belfast Trust, the Ambulance Service, the NI Medical and Dental Training Agency and the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority.

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