MLA warns of cutbacks at Downe

MLA warns of cutbacks at Downe

20 January 2021

THE reduction of services at the Downe Hospital to help with the province-wide surge in coronavirus cases must be ”watched like a hawk” according to a local politician.

South Down MLA Colin McGrath’s warning comes after the South Eastern Trust confirmed that all outpatient services have been closed for two weeks.

While the hospital’s inpatient beds remain open, alongside the urgent care centre, minor injuries unit and some other routine services, Mr McGrath is concerned that some cancer services and urgent diagnostic treatments may not be delivered.

He said while there is no doubt of that the current health crisis is as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and the number of infection rates increasing, there is much hope though the rollout of a vaccination programme that will hopefully protect the most vulnerable.

“The NHS is overstretched,” continued Mr McGrath.“This is due in no short measure to the complete rundown there was of the services prior to the pandemic. But we are where we are and must adapt to face the worst perils of this virus.”

Mr McGrath said he is worried that some services — which have been temporarily removed from the Downe — may not return in a post-pandemic world.

“The soothing tones and assurances from the South Eastern Trust are not worth the paper they are written on as time and time again their ‘temporary’ changes necessitated by questionable explanations are often never reversed.” he declared.

“We have too many experiences of service cutbacks and told that they will return in a period of time and then do not.”

Mr McGrath said while there is a need to focus staff and resources where there is greatest need, he hopes that consideration will be given to the need that already exists, including exploratory and investigative procedures to help diagnose conditions.

“If this is not the case, we will be banking an equally serious pandemic of cancer and other illnesses later in the year when time will have run out for many. We must treat existing conditions, identify the most serious newly presenting illnesses and also balance the need to treat Covid.”

The South Down MLA again thanked frontline health and care staff who “perform miracles” every day in their work, also expressing the community’s gratitude and thanks for everything that they do under such difficult circumstances.