Trust defies protesters in switching A&E service
The South Eastern Health Trust has rejected calls that its proposal to downgrade the accident and emergency department at Downe Hospital will put extra pressure on the Ulster Hospital.
Members of the South Eastern Trust board came to their decision at an angry public meeting at Downshire hospital in Downpatrick last Wednesday (November 24)— in front of a public gallery packed with hundreds of people opposed to the proposals.
The board voted in favour of closing Downe Hospital A&E between 10pm and 8am, during which times a new ‘Urgent Care Co-operative’ is to be delivered by doctors in the GP out-of-hours service.
A trust spokesperson said: “The decision to close the A&E department at the Downe Hospital at these times will not impact on the Ulster Hospital. At present the Downe Hospital has no intensive care unit, so anyone living near the Downe area who has been involved in an accident or illness that requires intensive care treatment is not brought into the Downe Hospital anyway.
“The proposals put in place allow GPs to operate an out-of-hours service throughout the night at Downe — anyone who needs urgent medical attention will be seen and treated.”
John Compton, chief executive of the board, said:”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 the future.”
Strangford MP Jim Shannon is one of the many local politicians that oppose the A&E proposal. He said: “I have written to the minister requesting that the A&E be retained in totality. Any other decision would be a backward step and cannot be tolerated. The people of the area can’t accept it — their very well being is in the balance.”
The proposals also encompass the relocation of the acute psychiatric services provided by the Ulster Hospital to Lagan Valley Hospital in Lisburn.
The trust’s board has undertaken to provide transport services for patients and carers experiencing difficulty in accessing the new services.
These proposals will now go to the Local Commissioning Group and the Health and Social Care Board for endorsement and will then be submitted to the Department of Health for consideration.