ED issues need sorted before it becomes ‘life and death’

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

MARGARET Ritchie has said that a "vacuum" of consultant doctors in Daisy Hill's Emergency Department (ED) needs to be addressed imminently before it becomes a "life and death" matter.

Ms Ritchie, alongside representatives of the Daisy Hill Action Group, attended a meeting with the Southern Trust's Senior Management team to discuss the Trust's difficulty in recruiting consultant doctors for the ED at Daisy Hill, which has led to fears that the Department's 24/7 functionality could be placed in jeopardy.

The SDLP MP for South Down said: "The discussions with the Southern Health Trust's Senior Management Team were focused on the need to ensure that the A&E department at Daisy Hill remains open 24/7 and is operating at full capacity for the people of South Down.

“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 Trust across Northern Ireland to secure locum  A&E Consultant cover for the interim period." 

Ms Ritchie stated that recruitment of specialist consultants has been a long-term issue for the Trust, adding she had been in contact with the College of Emergency Medicine in London and the Permanent Secretary in the Department of Health in Belfast to urgently address the issue.

Emphasising the importance of locum staff in the interim period, Ms Ritchie said that the current political deadlock in Stormont is stymieing a long-term recruitment overhaul of the health system.

“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," she said. 

“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."

Daisy Hill Action group chairman, Francis Gallagher, said that in times of severe staff shortages, Trust resources should be apportioned to areas based on acute need.

He said: "At our meeting with the Southern Health Trust, we discussed the sharing of resources - including doctors - within the Southern Health Trust network and between Health Trusts in the North."

“The Daisy Hill Action Group raised the issue of obtaining an MRI scanner for Daisy Hill and the Trust told us they thought Daisy Hill would be a good location for this piece of hi-tech equipment. We will keep advocating for an MRI scanner to be located at Daisy Hill."

Mr Gallagher believes that such equipment would arguably make Daisy Hill a much more attractive proposition for specialist doctors.

“Medics tell us that an MRI scanner would be a great asset for Daisy Hill's patients because it would mean they would not have to travel to Craigavon or Belfast for an MRI scan. We have been told MRI scans are safer because no radiation is used and they give better images.

"It is probable that improvements such as this would make Daisy Hill more attractive to medical professionals to work there," added Mr Gallagher.

Meanwhile, Newry and Armagh MP, Mickey Brady, has told the Southern Trust that the ED must be available on a 24-hour basis.

He led a Sinn Fein delegation to meet the Trust following fears over the ED's future.

"It is our view that the Southern Trust do have sufficient senior staff to cover both Daisy Hill and Craigavon on a 24 hour basis," he said.

"They need to manage their workforce to ensure there is no threat to service.

"We are aware that Craigavon Hospital has redirected ambulances away from its Emergency Department on numerous occasions in recent months as it was unable to cope with the volume of patients. There is no logic to the Trust considering a reduction of service in Daisy Hill when Craigavon is already over stretched."

He added: "The proposal to close night time Emergency Department services in Daisy Hill Hospital must be resisted by all who value the excellent service it provides."


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