Northern Ireland news

Anger as stroke services axed at Newry's Daisy Hill Hospital

Newry's Daisy Hill Hospital.
Paul Ainsworth

THE withdrawal of stroke services at Newry's Daisy Hill Hospital has been condemned as an "act of cynical health sabotage".

The Southern Health Trust has blamed staffing issues for ending the services at Daisy Hill from May 31, with all patients set to be directed to Craigavon Area Hospital over 22 miles away.

The trust said recruiting medical staff has been a "major issue" for Daisy Hill in recent years.

Stroke services were previously temporarily withdrawn at the hospital in February as a result of staffing issues.

"The pressures have now escalated with increasing reliance on medical locum cover and a number of consultant medical staff ending their tenure at the hospital," a trust spokesperson said on Thursday.

Other services including respiratory and gastrointestinal (GI) inpatient provision are also at risk, the trust has warned, but the spokesperson added: "Every avenue is being pursued to protect services."

They said there are "insufficient substantive stroke consultants" at Daisy Hill.

"The decision has been taken on patient safety grounds to again divert all acute stroke patients to Craigavon Area Hospital. This will come into effect from 9am on 31 May. The same measure was taken in February due to unforeseen staffing issues.”



The trust's chief executive, Dr Maria O'Kane, said at its monthly board meeting that recruitment difficulties was a matter of "great concern".

“This situation is certainly not unique to Daisy Hill Hospital. The shortage of medical staff is extremely challenging in Northern Ireland, and indeed further afield," she said.

Newry and Armagh SDLP MLA Justin McNulty said the move was an "act of cynical health sabotage" and said rural areas were being "continually squeezed and deprived of medical parity".

“Under the all too convenient badge of the Bengoa Report into the drastic reevaluation of critical hospital support services across the north, the people of the wider South Armagh and South Down area are going to be thrown on the medical scrap heap," the MLA said.

“It is quite shocking that some of those that claim to have the wellbeing of seriously sick people are prepared to make the argument that someone dying of a stroke condition can travel up the road to Craigavon from Newry in around half an hour.

“Try and tell that to a stroke victim living miles away from Newry in the first instance in places like Cullaville or Mullaghbawn. Try and tell that to individuals that have to travel over third-rate mountain roads in the middle of winter."

Fellow Newry and Armagh MLA Liz Kimmins said: “Staff and the wider community feel that no one in the senior management of the trust is championing Daisy Hill."

She added: “The trust must find urgent solutions to these issues and tackle the serious difficulties in recruiting and retaining staff."

Read more: Protesters send 'very important message' over ending emergency surgery at Daisy Hill Hospital


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