News

Trust defends proposed closure of stroke unit at Daisy Hill Hospital

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

A NEWRY councillor and former nurse at Daisy Hill Hospital has called on people to oppose controversial proposals to shut the stroke unit at Daisy Hill despite assurances from the Southern Health Trust that people in Newry and Mourne will benefit from the move.
The 20-week public consultation process on the centralisation of all stroke services in the Southern Trust area to Craigavon Area Hospital kicked off last month.
John McArdle, a former employee at Daisy Hill, said it imperative that people make their voices heard against the proposal, which the Trust said was recommended because "Craigavon Area Hospital is the hospital used by the majority of the Trust population".
Mr McArdle said the move raised a number of serious concerns for stroke patients and their families living in the Newry and Mourne area.
These include the Trust being able to meet RCP guidelines that stroke patients must be in a stroke unit within four hours of suffering stroke; where patients will stay after being repatriated back to Daisy Hill after the maximum 16-day stay in Craigavon, and the additional physical and financial pressure placed on families who have to make daily 40-mile return journeys to Craigavon.
“We should have a stroke unit of our own," the SDLP councillor told the Democrat.
“We have to stand up and fight this because I believe we have an excellent stroke unit here and we must fight to keep it.
“I have a feeling that Trust bosses can be persuaded to change their minds, but we have to stand up and be counted and take part in the public consultation to save our stroke unit."
Responding to concerns raised by Mr McArdle and another source within Daisy Hill, the Southern Trust insisted the move to Craigavon would lead to better health outcomes for people in Newry and Mourne.
Under RCP guidelines, stroke patients must be in a stroke unit within four hours of suffering stroke - placing pressure on ambulances to transfer patients in time after patients have been checked in Daisy Hill for suitability for clot-busting drug lysis.
If not, they must then be rushed to Craigavon.
A Trust spokesperson said: "Patients who have suffered a stroke will always get immediate diagnosis and emergency treatment, including thrombolysis at both of our Emergency Departments in Daisy Hill Hospital and Craigavon Area Hospital. This will ensure we can continue to achieve a 'door to needle' time of 60 minutes for thrombolysis.
“Patients will then receive specialist Acute and Rehabilitation Stroke Care in the new dedicated unit on the Craigavon Area Hospital site. We will be working with Northern Ireland Ambulance Service colleagues to ensure this transfer happens without delay, and that patients are transferred directly to the Stroke Unit."
In 2013, 40 per cent of stroke patients in Daisy Hill remained in hospital as an in-patient for more than 16 days. Under the new proposals, stroke patients from Newry and Mourne will spend 16 days maximum in Criagavon before being repatriated back to Daisy Hill for continued treatment and rehabilitation.
Under the proposals, the10-bed stroke unit in Daisy Hill will be closed, however, RCP guidelines state that "patients that require ongoing inpatient rehabilitation should be treated in a specialist stroke rehabilitation unit with specialist stroke and rehabilitation staff".
In response, a Trust spokesperson said it is intended that "some of the beds" will remain in Daisy Hill for patients requiring ongoing inpatient rehabilitation and that patients would receive ongoing rehabilitation care under the care of the local Geriatrician with stroke expertise and a community based specialist stroke rehabilitation team providing "inreach care" into Daisy Hill.
Around 75 per cent of stroke victims in Newry and Mourne are over 65, and according to Mr McArdle, their partners - who often have poor health and poor mobility - will have to make a 40-mile return journey to visit their partners.
The Trust said clinical evidence shows that patients are more likely have a better health outcome from a stroke if treated in a specialist centre, adding: "We hope that through this consultation people would be prepared to accept very short term inconvenience if they know their loved one is in a place where they will get treatment which will provide the best possible outcome following their stroke.
“Although patients and families would need to travel to Craigavon Area Hospital, access to specialist stroke care in a specialised unit would mean that, on average, patients could be discharged home from hospital sooner.
“We firmly believe that delivering inpatient stroke care by a specialist stroke team will enable the full medical, nursing and allied health professional team to have more time with patients and access diagnostic and therapy resources more efficiently - leading to better health outcomes for patients from Newry and Mourne and for patients from across the Southern Trust area."
Public consultation documents and times can be seen as www.southerntrust.hscni.net/consultations

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