Trade unions launch campaign to defend emergency services across Southern Trust area

Trade unionists launch campaign to save emergency services in Southern Trust area

Southern Trust plans to end emergency surgery at Daisy Hill will leave emergency department at Newry only providing stabilisation before sending patients elsewhere

Closure will add further pressure onto struggling emergency department at Craigavon and threatens to close maternity in Newry

Local trade union representatives from a range of unions as well as a number of politicians attended a meeting called by Unite community branch activists in Newry. 

Unite community branch spokesperson for Newry, Martin McKeown, who called the meeting, confirmed the determination of those in attendance. 

“This was a good start to what is a life or death campaign for communities across south Armagh and Down and indeed across the border in Dundalk. If Trust proposals to end emergency surgery at Newry are allowed to proceed, it means the end of our emergency department. What will be left? – aside from a minor injuries unit and a stabilisation facility to allow people to be sent up the road to Craigavon.

“The meeting agreed that we need to be making the case for a split-site ICU across both Newry and Craigavon. It’s the only sustainable way to keep our surgeons. That will mean Anaethetists working across two sites but it is vital if this community is not to bear the brunt of losing access to accident and emergency.

“The decision will pose immediate problems for maternity at Newry. How can birth complications be safe if there’s no emergency surgery. There is a domino effect with acute services.”

The meeting heard widespread fears from senior trade unionists that if this attack on rural services is allowed to continue all NHS emergency services will end up centralised in Belfast.

Chairing the meeting was Donal O’Cofaigh, Unite Campaigns, Communications & Press officer for Northern Ireland; speaking after the meeting, Mr O’Cofaigh confirmed the ending of emergency surgery at Newry threatened to overwhelm emergency services for people across the wider Southern Trust area.

“In recent days, the BBC has highlighted the huge challenges already existing at surgical department in Craigavon. Now the Trust is trying to tell us that it can cope with the extra demand from across Armagh and Down. It’s just not credible.

“This situation is rooted in the failure to pay NHS workers properly. Low pay has resulted in a widespread staffing crisis hitting rural areas hardest. At the same time, we all know that there is no staffing crisis in the private sector who are waiting like vultures in the wings. The staffing crisis and the resulting collapse of rural services is part of Bengoa agenda to dismantle and privatise the NHS in Northern Ireland.”

The meeting agreed that the local representative trade unions were best placed to take forward a cross-community campaign to save services in Newry and across the Southern region. The campaign group ‘Hands off Daisy Hill’ will demand that prospective election candidates pledge their parties’ political support for the retention of emergency surgery at Newry. 

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