Northern Ireland

MLA slams Southern Trust for 'disgraceful neglect' of Daisy Hill Hospital

Stroke services at Daisy Hill Hospital have been diverted to Craigavon Area Hospital.
Stroke services at Daisy Hill Hospital have been diverted to Craigavon Area Hospital.

AN MLA has criticised the Southern Trust for their “disgraceful neglect” of Daisy Hill Hospital, stating that a loss of services has led to mass consultant resignations and a crisis that has reached “terrifying heights”.

In a strongly-worded statement, the SDLP’s Justin McNulty has also called on Sinn Féin to commit to taking on the health ministry in the event of Stormont returning.

It follows an announcement on Friday that a lack of senior consultant cover meant all acute stroke patients are now being diverted to Craigavon Area Hospital.

A Chief Operating Officer has now been appointed to Daisy Hospital to stabilise staffing for the summer months before a more permanent solution can be found.

“All that matters to our community is that Daisy Hill Hospital and its unique contribution to the health and wellbeing of generations of local people is safeguarded and retained,” Mr McNulty said.

“This is an issue that transcends political rivalries. There is no value in scoring debating points on what should be done. All that matters is that those with their hands on the levers of power are willing and committed to protecting our people, irrespective of creed, gender or political identity.”

Calling on Sinn Féin to take on the health portfolio, he added: “Nothing, absolutely nothing is worth losing lives at the expense of political expediency.”

He continued: “I don’t care who gets the credit for saving Daisy Hill, as long as our hospital is saved.

“I am calling on Sinn Féin to publicly commit to grabbing the Health Ministry with both hands in an incoming Executive, honour the commitments they have made in public, and ensure that Daisy Hill is protected for future generations.”

On Friday, Sinn Féin MLA Conor Murphy did not commit to taking on the health ministry but said a lack of planning and “severe mismanagement” by the Trust had brought a number of services to near collapse.

“Daisy Hill is a vital part of our Health service and both the Southern Trust and the Department of Health must make it their highest priority to retain acute care services at the hospital now and into the future,” he said.

“The lack of planning by the Trust has seen an alarming number of consultants leave their posts, putting services and patient safety in a precarious position.”

Mr Murphy said he had engaged with the permanent secretary for Health to argue against any further collapses at Daisy Hill.

“Any collapse in local services will see pressure heaped on other hospitals across the north who are already under intense pressure.”

He called the Southern Trust “disingenuous” over its handling of the latest crisis.

“This is deeply concerning and undermines public confidence in the Trust,” he said.

The Daisy Hill Hospital Future Group also called for an “immediate intervention” to make sure acute inpatient medical care is maintained.

The group’s Chairman, Dr Conor Patterson said the Trust had been “disingenuous and misleading” in handling the changes.

"Daisy Hill is just the tip of the iceberg and not just an issue for the people of this area," he said.

On Friday, a Southern Trust spokesperson issued a statement on medical staffing issues at the hospital.

“Due to insufficient senior consultant cover at Daisy Hill and to immediately protect patient safety, all acute stroke patients are now being diverted to Craigavon Area Hospital,” they said.

Southern Trust Chief Executive, Dr Maria O’Kane, said: “We greatly welcome the continued support of regional colleagues during this difficult time and are working with other Trusts to identity potential medical staffing support.

“We now have a regionally agreed interim plan, developed with the support of our medical team which we have shared with all staff and have appointed a Chief Operating Officer for the Daisy Hill site.”

“Ensuring patient safety, supporting our staff’s psychological safety, maintaining a Type 1 24/7 Emergency Department at Daisy Hill and providing alternatives to hospital admission close to home remain our absolute priorities. Our initial focus aims to stabilise staffing for the summer months in anticipation of a more permanent solution.”

She said the trust remained ambitious for Daisy Hill and that work was continuing at pace to progress new models of care.

This is intended to prevent and reduce inpatient medical admissions and develop more same day emergency care options.

“Understandably, some staff at Daisy Hill and also Craigavon are anxious about the anticipated changes to our acute hospital network.”

She said a Trustwide approach involving both sites was central to addressing the current problems.

“Whilst there may be changes to the way we all work, there is a job and work for everyone and indeed many opportunities through these new, innovative ways of working.”

Paediatrics, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Mental Health and Disability services continue to operate as usual with work ongoing to build on elective surgical activity.

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