‘Need’ to support Downe

‘Need’ to support Downe

11 May 2022

HEALTH campaigners have called on newly elected MLAs to ensure that the future of local healthcare provision across the country will be at the top of the political agenda in the next Programme for Government.

The call by the Down Community Health Committee comes ahead of its meeting at Denvir’s Coaching Inn in Downpatrick tomorrow night which will be addressed South Eastern Trust chief executive Roisin Coulter.

Local health campaigners say it is essential that a new Executive is formed quickly so that the task of rebuilding a health service focused on the needs and demands of the people can be met.

Ahead of tomorrow night’s meeting, a spokesman for the health committee said there was a “clear need” for politicians to bring certainty to the funding available to the NHS generally and for essential reform in particular.

“Everyone agrees that there is a need for health service reform. 

That presents many challenges, but its also presents great opportunities to address healthcare inequalities generally and especially those arising due to the discrimination against rural communities, as a consequence of the undue concentration of services in Belfast,” he continued.

“For change to be accepted, it must be co-designed with local communities and the incoming health minister, of whatever party, must make this a mandatory requirement in all decision making.”

Health campaigners say the time has come to end the “relentless and flawed centralisation” of services.

“This policy has greatly contributed to the decline of the NHS, in conjunction with the massive under-resourcing of healthcare by successive governments,” the spokesman declared.

“It is essential that the new health minister signals intent to deliver change. What better signal could there be on the traditional first day photo opportunity than for the Minister to come down to have his photo taken at the Downe Hospital, rather than one of the overcrowded major hospital sites in Belfast? 

“Who knows? Might the Minister not announce, at that time, the go-ahead for the much-needed MRI scanner at the Downe Hospital, a project that is stuck in a capital expenditure queue in the Department of Health?”

Thespokesman added: “We hope that the incoming Health Minister will give the same priority to direct engagement with local communities as the Department gives to the medical professionals unions and lobby groups. After all, it is the ordinary people, the taxpayers, who fund the NHS."

Tomorrow’s important meeting comes after campaigners recently reaffirmed their commitment to continue lobbying for the return of 24-hour emergency services to the Downe Hospital after confirmation that a major review of urgent and emergency care across the province was out for public consultation.

Campaigners have consistently made the point that service reductions imposed at the Downpatrick hospital were meant to be temporary.

The reductions took place at the Downe as part of the South Eastern Trust’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, on the understanding that they would be reinstated as soon as the major element of the public health emergency had been dealt with.

Campaigners say they are still looking for delivery on these commitments and to have 24-hour emergency services returned to the Downpatrick hospital. In addition to the provision of a new MRI scanner at the Downpatrick hospital, campaigners are also keen to see so-called point of care testing provided at the local hospital.

They have also recently asked senior health officials what steps have been taken in the past 12 months to recruit additional staff and resolve the issues of emergency care at the Downpatrick hospital.

Members of the campaign group are also keen to see increased usage of the modern theatres at the hospital which they believe are not being fully utilised and could be put to greater use if a general anaesthetic service was provided.

Campaigners are encouraging those with an interest in the Downpatrick hospital and local hospital services to attend tomorrow evening’s meeting at Denvir’s which starts at 7.30pm.