Warning over ‘temporary closure’ of Daisy Hill Hospital Emergency Department
The Southern Health and Social Care Trust has issued a statement warning of ongoing staffing difficulties for the Emergency Department at Daisy Hill Hospital and have suggested that it could lead to its temporary closure.
The Southern Health and Social Care Trust Board were updated on the staffing challenges facing the Emergency Department (ED) in Newry’s Daisy Hill Hospital at a public meeting today (Thursday 30th March).
The Trust said that it remains committed to maintaining the Emergency Department, and thanks to the dedication and hard work of staff, the ED has been running 24 hours, 7 days a week, despite the challenges in maintaining a senior medical workforce.
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“However, despite numerous recruitment efforts over the last two years, both nationally and internationally, there continues to be a shortage of permanent senior medical staff,” the statement explained.
“The current service is supported mainly by locum medical staff, and the continuing goodwill of clinical staff across the Trust.
“The Trust has been working closely with the Health and Social Care Board, the Department of Health and Trust colleagues across Northern Ireland to collectively explore potential opportunities to address the staffing challenges with the aim of trying to maintain 24/7 ED cover at Daisy Hill Hospital.”
The statement continued, “The service currently remains vulnerable to the short notice withdrawal of senior medical cover, particularly during the summer months when there is a less secure supply of locum consultants.
“Therefore, if there is any risk to patient safety due to lack of senior medical cover at night, the ED will temporarily suspend the service until suitable medical cover becomes available,” they warned.
The statement added, “This would be a last resort, and the Trust is making every effort to avoid any reduction in hours in the short term. The Trust remains committed to ensure the public and key stakeholders are updated and engaged in relation to this very important local service.”
Newry & Armagh Sinn Féin MLA Conor Murphy said that he has requested a meeting with the acting Chief Executive of the Southern Health & Social Care Trust in relation to the threat of suspension of the service.
Expressing his concerns the MLA stated, “This issue of sufficient medical cover for Daisy Hill’s Emergency Department has been raised with the Trust by myself, my colleagues and other political representatives, for a number of years now.
“Michelle O’Neill, as Health Minister, visited Daisy Hill and the Emergency Department in recent weeks to talk to staff about the pressures they were facing,” he said.
“The Trust have employed enough senior staff in recent times to ensure that 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.
“I have this morning contacted the Chief Executive of the Trust requesting a meeting as a matter of priority to discuss the issue. The suggested temporary suspension of access to services at Daisy Hill A&E Unit is already promoting real concerns that the Emergency Department could be further downgraded, increasing the chances that other services will be whittled away in turn.
The Sinn Féin representative added, “This must not be an option for consideration. The Trust must provide adequate cover for both Daisy Hill and Craigavon.”
SDLP Newry and Armagh MLA Justin McNulty has called for urgent action to secure the future of the Emergency Department. He is due to meet the Acting Chief Executive of the Trust next week to discuss the issue.
McNulty said, ‘‘The staffing crisis facing Daisy Hill Emergency Department is nothing new. They have been relying exclusively on locum cover since the end of January 2017. Last November I raised this issue with the then Health Minister Michelle O’Neill in the Assembly Chamber.
“I was aware of the pending retirement of a senior medic within the department and could see this hurtling down the track. Local people campaigned long and hard to protect Daisy Hill and its Emergency Department and they will be bitterly disappointed by the potential removal of this service, even if only temporary. More so than in any other area of care, time is a key factor in A&E.
“If someone turns up to Daisy Hill and needs emergency treatment only to be sent to Craigavon it could be the difference between life and death,” the SDLP MLA warned.
“I applaud the Southern Trust for their numerous recruitment efforts to try and secure a permanent solution to the problem however, it now seems that politics has once again got in the way. No Minister, no leadership in the department, and now no emergency cover in Daisy Hill.”
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He added, “It’s time for all parties to show that the protection of people’s health and public services is their top priority. They must put their shoulder to the wheel and form an Executive sooner rather than later to provide leadership on this issue. The public will not accept any more failure.”
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