Hazzard leads demand for return of services

Hazzard leads demand for return of services

29 July 2020

POLITICIANS, hospital campaigners and trade union officials joined forces last week to issue a clarion call for the restoration of key services to the Downe Hospital.

In particular, they want the hospital’s emergency department — closed by the South Eastern Trust at the end of March as part of its plan to deal with the coronavirus pandemic – reopened as soon as possible.

The call was made during a special meeting in Downpatrick organised by South Down MP Chris Hazzard. 

Describing last week’s all-party meeting as a “great success”, Mr Hazzard said all participants were “positive and constructive”.

The MP was joined by Down Community Health Committee officials Eamonn McGrady and Anne Trainor, South Down MLAs Emma Rogan, Colin McGrath and Harry Harvey, local councillors Alan Lewis, Kathryn Owen, Harold McKee, Andy McMurray and representatives from Unison.

Mr Hazzard said there was concern that previous closures of dedicated coronary care services and 24-hour emergency care at the Downe which, at the time, were described as “temporary,” became permanent

He said people across the district had grown “increasingly anxious” as health chiefs were unable to provide a date for the reopening of the Downe’s emergency department.

The MP said: “Individually and now collectively we have reiterated to the South Eastern Trust that it is essential for our community that all services are restored to the Downe Hospital at the earliest possible opportunity. 

“South Down may be a rural community, but our community has rights. We are entitled to equality of access to healthcare. Rural citizens in Down have the same rights as the urban population of the greater Belfast area.”

Mr Hazzard said that working constructively in partnership, politicians, health campaigners and trade union officials will continue to highlight issues and look forward to engaging publicly with the community in the near future when social distancing guidelines allow.

Mr Hazzard added: “I am delighted that all five political parties agreed to issue a response, setting out our collective determination to see all services restored to the Downe as soon as possible.”

Mr McGrath called on senior health trust officials to explain why the Co Down area was left with “little to no emergency department cover” during the Covid-19 crisis.

Mr McGrath said Co Down was the second most populated county in the province, revealing that people across Co Antrim had access to four emergency departments during the response to Covid-19, while people in Co Down had access to just the Ulster Hospital in Dundonald.