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Stormont hiatus ‘harming’ resolution of A&E crisis

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Stormont hiatus ‘harming’ resolution of A&E crisis thumbnailDaisy Hill Hospital

A HEALTH Minister needs to be in place to ensure that the A&E service at Daisy Hill Hospital is maintained.

That is the opinion of South Down MP Margaret Ritchie after meeting with the senior management team of the Southern Health and Social Care Trust last week.

Ms Ritchie hopes the issues at Stormont are soon resolved so that the people of South Down can have a "health minister who can immediately bring ministerial policy and political direction and weight to assist in resolving this recruitment issue" at Daisy Hill Hospital.

The Southern Health and Social Care Trust admitted last week that the A&E service was "vulnerable " and facing staffing challenges.

The Trust has been open in sharing the situation that for two years they have been unable to fulfil the consultant doctor Emergency Department rota. The warning was issued that the Trust is making an effort to avoid any reduction in hours but if it becomes necessary, they will "temporarily suspend the service until suitable medical cover becomes available".

Speaking after the meeting last Tuesday (4 April) in Daisy Hill, also attended by representatives from Daisy Hill Action Group, the MP said the discussions focused on "the need to ensure that the A&E department at Daisy Hill remains open 24/7 and is operating at full capacity".

"The Trust confirmed that they are facing difficulties in filling consultant doctor Emergency Department rotas due to global doctor recruitment difficulties, but gave assurances that they were working with the Health Trusts across Northern Ireland to secure locum A&E consultant cover for the interim period," Ms Ritchie said.

"The issue of shortages in consultant A&E staff is not a new issue. I have been in contact with the College of Emergency Medicine in London who is responsible for the recruitment of consultants for the UK and Ireland and the Permanent Secretary in the Department of Health in Belfast to urgently address the current shortage in medical doctor training places. I will be continuing my contact with the College of Emergency Medicine and have requested a meeting to ensure that in the overall UK recruitment programme that Northern Ireland is profiled and central to the recruitment drive.

"In this context it is very apparent that while Trust directors continue to work to secure locums in cooperation with Trusts across Northern Ireland and recruit A&E consultants there is a vacuum at the top of government with the absence of ministerial political and policy direction on this life and death matter.

"It would be my hope that the current talks process at Stormont will bring about an agreement that will result in the restoration of stable political institutions that give the people of South Down and Northern Ireland a Health Minister who can immediately bring ministerial policy and political direction and weight to assist in resolving this recruitment issue.

"Furthermore, I hope that the Department of Health is not using this shortage of medical doctor consultant issue to bring about concentration of Emergency A&E services in the Belfast and Craigavon based hospitals - this policy direction has prevailed in the Department of Health for many years.

"In all these discussions, it is paramount that the Department of Health and the Southern Health Trust ensure that local accessibility is provided to medical emergency services for residents from the Mournes and the southern section of South Down in Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry which is a teaching hospital of the Queen's University, Belfast.

For all these reasons, immediate restoration of political institutions are required in Northern Ireland," said Ms Ritchie.

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