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Trust denies Sinn Fein claim that A&E services at Downe Hospital will go

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Chris Hazzard. Photo: PA

Chris Hazzard. Photo: PA

PA

Chris Hazzard. Photo: PA

The South Eastern Health Trust has denied claims from a Sinn Fein MP that it plans to replace accident and emergency services at Downe Hospital with a minor injuries unit.

South Down MP Chris Hazzard claimed South Eastern Trust chief executive Seamus McGoran revealed the decision at a meeting held this week.

The MP said it would be a "major slap in the face" for the local community.

Mr Hazzard said: "Despite all the assurances that they remain committed to restoring an emergency department 'in the future when possible', the community are fearful that we are in the process of losing our emergency department under the cover of 'temporary reconfiguration' due to Covid-19."

But last night the South Eastern Trust said no such decision had been made.

It said a minor injuries service would begin in early August ­- but this was just the first step towards resuming services.

"At no time did the trust state that the minor injuries service would replace the emergency department and trust chief executive Seamus McGoran made this abundantly clear to those present at the meeting on Thursday," a statement said.

"Our commitment to reopening the Downe urgent and emergency care services when it is safe and appropriate to do so is as clear today as it was when we made the changes.

"We are not in a position yet to restore the services to pre-Covid levels, but as a first step towards that goal we are opening a seven-day minor injuries service in the Downe ED, between 9am and 5pm, starting from August 3.

"It is not a replacement, but a first phase of opening."

A&E services at Downe were withdrawn during the Covid-19 emergency, but senior politicians in south Down said they had been assured the services would be restored.

South Down MLA Jim Wells, a former Stormont Health Minister, said there would be "uproar" in the local area if the A&E closure went ahead.

"One by one, major services have been removed from the Downe," he said.

"What we are heading for is a cottage hospital.

"There will be absolute uproar if this is implemented."

Former SDLP leader and South Down MP Baroness Ritchie said any move to close the A&E department "would not be tolerated" by local people.

Belfast Telegraph