Downe here to stay, says Trust chief

Downe here to stay, says Trust chief

4 September 2019

THE Downe Hospital is set to play an increasingly important role at the heart of healthcare provision across the district, according to the South Eastern Trust’s most senior official.

During a meeting with hospital campaigners on Monday night, Mr Seamus McGoran reaffirmed the organisation’s commitment to the hospital and the drive to secure an enhanced range of services, including an MRI scanner which would require a new extension being built.

He said health officials will continue to grab new opportunities for the hospital where they can, confirming that they are going to have a 

“serious rethink” about the Downe’s capacity as it is running out of space.

Mr McGoran — who is the health trust’s acting chief executive – declared that the Downe Hospital is “here to stay” and praised the key role of health campaigners and politicians for working with administrators to deliver the new hospital a decade ago.

Describing the Downe as a “fantastic facility”, the health chief said administrators are committed to the hospital which already delivers a number of trust-wide services, pointing to a recent £3.5m investment in a new base for the trust’s multi-disciplinary team.

He said health officials are also continuing to prioritise outpatient and day surgery capacity, alongside diagnostic assessment and treatment. But he conceded that the return of 24-hour A&E services may be difficult.

Mr McGoran was invited to address the Down Community Health Committee and said it was important that the South Eastern Trust was having a conversation with campaigners who are keen to continue discussions with officials to ensure the retention of existing services and the delivery of enhanced provision moving forward.

Over previous years, relations between both organisations was particularly fraught at times and while they did not always see eye to eye, Mr McGoran hopes they can now move forward together.

He said he had “nothing but respect for the Down community” because local people cared about their health and social care services, committing time and energy to make sure the area gets the best provision it can.

“This is not always obvious everywhere in Northern Ireland,” Mr McGoran continued. “You have been at this for a long time and I have no doubt that without your campaigning work we would not have some of the things we have in this organisation today. I am also not sure that we would have the Downe Hospital.

“Your contribution and those who went before you has been fundamental in keeping this area in the spotlight, fighting ultimately for your services. I take my hat off to you. The Downe is here to stay and we have a fantastic facility and there are no staff better. In fact, we have incredible staff who work right across the organisation.”

Mr McGoran said that while administrators and campaigners may not have always agreed in the past about how the health trust did things, he suggested they all had the same aim —wanting the best health and social care that could be delivered, sometimes within challenging resources.

Looking to the future, the health chief referred to an ongoing review of emergency care which has resulted in the group overseeing the exercise visiting the Downe and meeting with senior health officials.

“I do envisage that there is going to be further change for emergency medicine but when I was asked the question what did I think about the future of the service at the Downe, Ulster and Lagan Valley hospitals in 10 years’ time, I could not really answer that,” explained Mr McGoran.

“I was prepared to say what it would be like in five years’ time, but could not look beyond that. A five year vision is really something that you can get a hold of and we made it clear to those in charge of the review that the emergency care model we have in place at the Downe will be here in five years’ time.”

Mr McGoran said the health trust was on record with the Department of Health during the early stages of the current engagement that it still sees the current model at the Downe comprising the emergency department, out of hours GP service and weekend nurse-led minor injuries unit remaining in place.

“We will still have acute beds in the Downe and it will deal with medically unwell patients. All of the current infrastructure we have will remain in place and our vision is to expect these to remain in place for the next five years,” he confirmed.

Mr McGoran said the one caveat was that it remained to be seen what the Department of Health will do with the information it has been provided with in relation to the future of emergency care, suggesting serious conversations about the way forward have only just begun.

He added: “There is work ongoing and at some point there may be a consultation exercise. I do not know where all this is going to go and it is a bit early to speculate.”

Community Health Committee chairman Eamonn McGrady welcomed the health official’s “constructive and honest engagement” with campaigners.

He said: “We need to go forward in a partnership, but that does not mean that we will always agree. Our community supports the Downe Hospital and also the centres of excellence in the bigger hospitals that our delivering our health needs.

“But we need as much care as possible provided as locally as possible, safely and well adequately resourced in a brilliant building.”

Mr McGrady added: “I hope that in five years’ time we will be looking at a very major extension at the Downe and a major increase in capacity. We are we are going to need a lot more beds and a lot more space.”