Reprieve for Daisy Hill emergency department
THE emergency department at Daisy Hill Hospital has been given a reprieve.
There had been fears that the A&E unit in Newry was under threat, with the Southern Health and Social Care Trust warning it was too reliant on locum doctors.
The department deals with around 50,000 patients a year.
Plans to expand capacity at Craigavon Area Hospital to accommodate those unable to attend Daisy Hill were criticised due to the potential risk for emergency patients forced to travel further.
A 'regional summit' of health professionals was held yesterday, although it was not open to the public or media.
The Southern trust later said it had secured "support" from across the health service to "sustain 24/7 emergency services at Daisy Hill Hospital".
It is understood this will involve consultants from the Belfast health trust coming in to help staff at Daisy Hill.
The trust's interim chief executive, Stephen McNally said the support will allow it to "develop a viable plan that will address the immediate pressures and look to stabilise the provision of emergency services".
A spokesman for the Department of Health said everyone at the summit "agreed with the department that in light of the clinical need, current size and projected growth of the population of Newry and Mourne, acute services need to be retained there".
"Work on achieving that regional approach, in a safe and sustainable way, will now gather pace," he said.
"This immediate pressure on emergency services in Daisy Hill is further evidence of the need for transformation in the provision of health and social care and the future planning of those services at a Northern Ireland level."
The Health and Social Care Board, Public Health Agency, Belfast trust, Ambulance Service, Northern Ireland Medical and Dental Training Agency and the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority all took part in yesterday's meeting.
Francis Gallagher, from Daisy Hill Hospital Action Group, welcomed the renewed commitment to its emergency department but said there was a need to "attract more consultants to work in Newry".
"We've been working with the local business community to find out what the problems are," he said.
"We're also keen to work with the department to find solutions to attract consultants."
Sinn Féin MP Mickey Brady said yesterday's announcement was "welcome" but there is "still a need for a longer term solution to the problems at Daisy Hill as there are still concerns over fracture clinics and orthopaedic service".