THE New Year has opened with widespread anger around Downpatrick at the sudden announcement by the South Eastern HSC Trust that they are experiencing a critical shortage of medical staff in both the Downe and Lagan Valley emergency departments, and were thus forced to cut back on weekend working.
This leaves local doctors operating an out-of-hours service at weekends and night-time at the Downe on their own.
The inability to recruit and retain middle-grade doctors to work in A&E points to poor planning and raises issues about the competency of health service management over a 15-year period, since this problem was first widely acknowledged.
Only 250 doctors are being trained a year in Northern Ireland. Of these, 100 are overseas students, who will return home. An average of 50 are emigrating annually on graduation.
Trusts ought to be allowed to sponsor students who agree to work in scarce specialities after graduating.
Some parts of Down district would require travelling 40 miles to the Ulster, or Daisy Hill in Newry. This is just unacceptable.
CLLR CADOGAN ENRIGHT (Ind)
Down District Council