Alarm bells ring over Southern Trust move to end emergency surgery at Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry

Decision leaves some parts of Northern Ireland 70 minutes from emergency surgery provision – and that in blue light conditions

Unite in the community will mobilise to defend access to basic emergency treatment and make it a major issue ahead of upcoming Assembly election

The announcement by the Southern Health and Social Care Trust that is set to end emergency surgery at Daisy Hill Hospital has generated a wave of alarm in the local community. Unite the union, which was one of leading organisers of opposition to previous threats to close the emergency department, warned that unless the decision was reversed the community would mobilise as never before to defend access to basic emergency services.

At the outset of the pandemic, Unite received assurances that the reconfiguration of services that stood down A & E in Daisy Hill hospital was only an enforced measure that would soon be reversed. At that time, the Southern Trust confirmed the need for two emergency departments in the trust area. Now the Southern Trust has announced that emergency surgery will be removed from Daisy Hill hospital from February 28th ahead of a full public consultation on the future service model.

Kevin McAdam, Regional Officer

Unite Regional Officer for the Health sector, Kevin McAdam, challenged the Southern Trust on the decision:

“If you withdraw emergency surgery – what sort of emergency service is left? Anyone needing emergency surgery will face having the delay of being transferred from one hospital to another. The people of Newry and districts cannot be abandoned like this. 

“Reconfiguration of services must improve healthcare provision not abandon communities. Our members in the NI Ambulance service advise that this closure would leave people in Kilkeel, for example, 1 hour 10 minutes away from emergency surgery at Craigavon hospital and that’s even in blue light conditions. Paramedics will need to make judgement calls on which hospital to bring emergency admissions. It is undeniable that lives will be lost if this proceeds.

“The Southern Trust needs to reverse this decision. If not, Unite will be calling on the community to mobilise as never before in defence of their access to vital, lifesaving health services.”

Albert Hewitt, Community Coordinator

A previous threat to the A&E department in Newry was defeated after mass mobilisation by the community organised by Unite community and industrial branches, alongside others in the local trades council. Unite community coordinator Albert Hewitt committed the community members’ full support for the campaign to defend services at Daisy Hill hospital.

“Unite community members in Newry have just finished a hugely successful campaign to secure funding to keep the Albert Basin as a green space for the community. They are absolutely determined that access to basic emergency services at Daisy Hill Hospital will be defended. If the Southern Trust doesn’t back off this threat – this community will fight!

“We all know how Stormont cuts NHS services: words turn into their opposite to enable cuts by stealth. Black is sold to us as white. So now we are being told an emergency department doesn’t have to provide live-saving emergency surgery! The people won’t be fooled. In coming days and weeks, alongside other local health campaigners, Unite community will be hitting the streets and raising opposition to this attack on local access to vital health services. We will be making this a major issue for all the parties in advance of the upcoming Assembly election.”

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