A summit is to be held into the future of Newry’s Daisy Hill Hospital Emergency Department, health chiefs announced today.
At a lively meeting of the Southern Health and Social Care Board in Craigavon, protestors crammed the board room and spilled outside angered at possible proposals to cut opening hours at the ED.
The regional summit aims to bring together various health bodies and professionals including the Public Health Agency and the NI Ambulance Service.
The crisis in the Emergency Department at Daisy Hill has arisen due to concerns at getting adequate cover at consultant level.
The Trust had warned that due to staff shortages a temporary overnight closure of the ED may be unavoidable.
Weeks ago the Trust said a back up plan of a £1m investment at Craigavon Hospital’s ED to cope with any possible closure had been agreed.
SHSCB Chairperson Roberta Brownlee said they had been working hard to get additional consultants from other trusts and across Northern Ireland.
“Be assured we want the very best for Daisy Hill and the wider community,” she said.
Trust Acting Chief Executive Stephen McNally said he understood the frustrations at how long the process can take and he was ‘taken aback by the strong belief that there is a long standing agenda to downscale Daisy Hill’.
He said he spoke this morning (Thursday) to Mr Richard Pengally, permanent secretary, about setting up a regional summit.
Medical Director Dr Richard Wright described ‘significant challenges’ around rotas but ‘at the minute there were no plans to change the service’.
He said there is a ‘vulnerability for the summer’.
However there were angry scenes in the boardroom as a number of political representatives as well as a top consultant accused the Board of downgrading Daisy Hill.
Sinn Fein MP Mickey Brady said he was sceptical about the Board’s plans to have a 12 week consultation on the temporary closure and challenged the £1m spend for Craigavon.
SDLP MLA Justin McNulty said there was ‘a real anger and fear in the community at the possible withdrawal of services’.
“The Emergency Department must be retained,” he said.
“This is a very clear indication that the Trust is planning long term closure of Daisy Hill,” he said.
Dr Donal Duffin a senior consultant at Daisy Hill, said there had been accusations junior doctors in Craigavon were being paid more for the same shift as junior doctors in Daisy Hill and produced documentation which he handed to Board chairperson Roberta Brownlee.
“You are not treating us fairly. You are not telling us the truth. I am calling you out,” Dr Duffin told the Board.
None of the questions were answered at the meeting today but Mrs Brownlee said those who were given speaking rights would be contacted and their questions answered.