Daisy Hill: Contingency plans for A&E night time suspension
THE Southern Trust has been asked to approve contingency plans if night-time A&E services at Daisy Hill Hospital are temporarily suspended.
Board members were briefed yesterday about the latest proposals to save the service after the trust warned last week that staff shortages may make overnight closures unavoidable.
The trust said the emergency service at the Newry hospital is vulnerable at night due to a shortage of permanent senior medical staff.
In a statement, it said contingency plans would be outlined to ensure patients can continue to access "safe, high-quality care".
"The trust continues to actively engage with the board, department and colleagues in other trusts in exploring every option to secure a sustainable service," it said.
"As the service remains vulnerable at night due to the shortage of permanent senior medical staff, contingency arrangements will be outlined to ensure patients can continue to access safe, high-quality care in the unfortunate event that medical cover could not be secured for more than one night."
It's understood that while there should be around 10 senior permanent doctors employed, the trust currently has just two permanent senior medics – with one part-time and the remaining shifts filled by locums.
The trust said attempts to recruit have been unsuccessful, and it is now asking the health board to approve preparations in Craigavon hospital to accommodate an additional flow of patients should the Daisy Hill service be suspended at night.
"This would be a last resort and the trust is continuing to make every effort to avoid any temporary reduction in hours in the short term," it said.
"There will be no permanent changes to any services without a full and comprehensive public consultation and engagement with local communities.
"Trust board will continue to meet as necessary to review the situation in Daisy Hill Hospital and to seek assurance that all options are being explored."
Last year, more than 53,000 people attended Daisy Hill Hospital's emergency department.
Staffing emergency departments and meeting European safety regulations has been a challenge for several of the north's health trusts.
The problems are considered to partly relate to delays in reforms to healthcare services in Northern Ireland.
Under the Transforming Your Care health review and last year's Bengoa report, reform was suggested to be a necessity.