Warning Downe change can only be temporary

Warning Downe change can only be temporary

25 March 2020

HEALTH campaigners have this week warned that any changes to service delivery at the Downe Hospital as part of the response to the coronavirus outbreak must be temporary.

They say health minister Robin Swann must give this commitment as senior officials from the South Eastern Trust and their colleagues across the province plan significant changes to be able to cope with the expected surge of the disease over the next two weeks in particular.

The Down Community Health Committee said it “greatly appreciates” the great work being done by so many people, including paramedics, doctors, healthcare assistants, nurses, administrators and many others within the health service at “this most difficult time of national emergency”.

Campaigners say they also appreciate that there is a need to revise and restructure procedures and patient flows at this most difficult time.

“We know that the Downe Hospital has a crucial role to play at this particular juncture saving lives across our community,” campaigners said in a statement. “Obviously, that will necessitate changes to other service provision.

“Of course, there have been ongoing issues associated with the lack of emergency ambulance response in the South and East Down area and the absence of a 24-hour emergency department seven days a week.”

Campaigners say that in order to best meet the needs of patients across the area, it is essential that additional emergency ambulance resources are committed immediately to it and that arrangements are put in place to ensure that the Downe provides 24/7 emergency department access.

They say that if temporary changes must be made to service provision, Mr Swann needs to give an assurance that those changes will be temporary, with a clearly defined date for the restoration of services local people currently enjoy.

“If a decision is taken to remove the GP out of hours provision from the Downe hospital site, we expect that the service will be relocated to other healthcare facilities or health centres in the Downpatrick area,” the statement continues.

“It is pleasing to see recognition being given to the importance of the Downe Hospital and the extent of services that can be provided there when there is a will so to do.

“The shortage of beds across the health service is something of which we have all been acutely aware, as is the shocking under-resourcing of the NHS. But now is not the time for recriminations. There will be better times ahead.”

Campaigners say everyone has a role to play in beating COVID-19 individually, as families and as communities.

They add: “We must support all those who are working so hard to protect us all, especially the vulnerable and frail elderly. We will never be able to thank them enough.”

A spokeswoman for the South Eastern Trust said that it must be recognised that there will be changes to services on a temporary basis over the coming weeks.

She added: “We must move critical staff into the correct areas to maximise care for patients when the surge comes. We have only begun to discuss what that will look like.”