Summit to be held over Daisy Hill Hospital ED future

By Marie-Louise Connolly
BBC News NI Health Correspondent

Image source, Pacemaker

A regional summit is to be held next week to discuss the future of the emergency department at Daisy Hill hospital in Newry.

Management made the announcement at a Southern Health Trust board meeting.

It will bring together health professionals, the Public Health Agency and the Ambulance Service.

The trust's medical director, Dr Richard Wright, told the BBC the issue now requires regional support.

There were angry scenes outside the headquarters of the trust, as members of the public tried to gain access to the board meeting.

The meeting followed warnings from the trust that a temporary overnight closure of the department may be unavoidable due to staff shortages.

An announcement had been expected on Thursday, triggering a consultation on various options for its future.

The consultation process usually lasts 12 weeks and involves the trust liaising with the public and community groups.

Officials would then approach Northern Ireland's Health and Social Care Board with options, which would have to be approved by the Department of Health.

'Strong message'

Earlier this month, the trust announced the emergency service at the Newry hospital was unsustainable as it relied too heavily on locums.

Health officials have claimed that creates an unreliable environment that is putting patient safety at risk.

Image caption,
More than 53,000 people attended Daisy Hill's A&E last year

Sources have told the BBC that the Southern Health Trust considered putting forward proposals to deal with the issues at Daisy Hill Hospital at the start of 2016.

However, the BBC understands senior officials at the Department of Health advised against such a move in the run-up to the assembly election.

Attempting it now, just days after a public meeting that saw hundreds of people voicing their objections to closure, would not have gone down well.

Monday night's rally in Newry sent a strong message from the public that they would not take this decision lying down.

While their voices have not fallen on deaf ears - for just how much longer they can stall the decision remains to be seen.

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