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Daisy Hill A&E closure raised with civil service chief

Daisy Hill hospital's A&E department in Newry is under threat of closure due to short-staffing

CONCERNS over the future of Daisy Hill hospital's short-staffed A&E department will be raised with the head of the civil service today.

Conor Murphy, Sinn Féin Assembly member for Newry and Armagh, will lead a delegation to lobby Malcolm McKibbin on the Southern health trust's workforce planning - after major gaps in doctors' rotas led to an announcement earlier this month that the Newry casualty unit could be closed overnight.

Trust chiefs said contingency plans were being drawn up to ensure patient care was safe, including the transfer of patients to Craigavon Area hospital.

The overstretched Co Down department has increasingly relied on costly locums to provide cover following unsuccessful attempts by the Trust to attract high-level doctors.

More than 53,000 people attended the unit for treatment last year.

Mr Murphy said: "This issue of sufficient medical cover for Daisy Hill's emergency department has been raised with the trust by myself and party colleagues for a number of years now.

"The trust have employed enough senior staff in recent times to ensure there is adequate cover in both Daisy Hill and Craigavon.

"It is their responsibility to deliver 24-hour cover in the emergency departments and the loss of services is not the answer."

The Daisy Hill A&E unit is one of a number of Northern Ireland hospital's that has long been under the spotlight for downgrading following expert reports on health service reform, with authors saying there are too many acute hospitals for population of 1.8 million.

The most recent report by Professor Rafael Bengoa said the north's entire hospital and healthcare system required an urgent overhaul.

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