Sinn Féin MP Chris Hazzard has said that pans to replace the Emergency Department and A&E at the Downe Hospital with a Minor Injuries Unit is a “major slap in the face” for the local community who supported the South Eastern Health Trust’s urgent reconfiguration of services at the outset of the Covid19 pandemic.
The Sinn Féin MP was speaking following a meeting with South Eastern Trust (SEHSCT) management on Thursday, where interim Chief Executive Seamus McGoran revealed the controversial decision to only restore a minor injuries unit at the Downe in August, and not the Emergency Department and A&E.
Speaking Mr Hazzard said:
“At the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic the SEHSCT asked our local community to be openminded and understand that a “temporary” overhaul of services at the Downe Hospital was absolutely necessary to meet the Covid19 challenge.
“To their credit, our local community and all shades of political opinion accepted the unprecedented nature of this situation and wholeheartedly supported the SEHSCT in their endeavour to reorganise local services to help those who would unfortunately be in need of intensive medical support.
“The Downe Hospital was soon unrecognisable as the Emergency Department, Minor Injuries Unit, Day Procedure Unit, and Outpatients Department were all closed from Monday 30th March. Where required, all available staff and equipment from these units was then requisitioned for use in other parts of the SEHSCT area.
“Importantly, the SEHSCT were explicit in their communication to the public that this loss of services was “solely part of the effort to meet the challenges of COVID-19” and that they would “fully restore services to normal as soon as possible.”
“SEHSCT management have now confirmed that a new 7 days a week Minor Injuries Unit will be introduced at the Downe instead of the Emergency Department that was previously in place. Despite all the assurances that they remain committed to restoring an Emergency Department “in the future when possible”, the community are fearful that we are in the process of losing our Emergency Department under the cover of ’temporary reconfiguration’ due to Covid19.
“I have today written to the Health Minister to alert him to this controversial development; to question why such fundamental restructuring of services can take place without any public consultation; and to state quire clearly that there is total opposition to these plans in the local community.
Mr Hazzard added:
“In agreeing to the radical reconfiguration of the Downe Hospital in March, our local community made a big sacrifice in order to accommodate the unprecedented demands made by the SEHSCT in the fight against COVID-19. It was the right thing to do at the right time; however, there is an onus now on the SEHSCT to respond in kind to our local community. Nothing less will be acceptable.
“Sinn Féin will also be tabling an Emergency Motion at Down Council on Monday evening and we hope that all political parties can work in partnership with the public in ensuring the restoration of the Emergency Department and A&E to the Downe Hospital as a matter of priority.”