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Calls for rethink on plans to move Stroke Services from Newry to Craigavon

Daisy Hill Hospital, Newry

There has been a call for the Health Minister to rethink plans to move Stroke Services from Newry’s Daisy Hill Hospital to Craigavon

SDLP’s Dominic Bradley, speaking in the Assembly, said Daisy Hill Hospital is a vital service in Newry and indeed the wider region.

He said: “Any threat to withdraw services must be resisted, not for the sake of resistance, but because of the excellent health provision which is offered in Newry.  It is second to none.

“Down through the years, there have been many efforts to remove services from Daisy Hill and those were strenuously and successfully opposed. Previously there were proposals to remove the laboratories; we fought that and won. Orthopaedic patients were being taken out of the hospital; we stopped that move. Switchboard services were to be centralised; they are still in Daisy Hill. The hydrotherapy pool was to be closed; it is still there and has been refurbished.

“While some administrative services have left the hospital, the important hospital services have been retained. I welcome the developments and the investments in the hospital and the cross-border services that it provides. I am proud of the hospital, and I fully support the staff.”

He added: “Over recent months, our focus has been on fighting proposals to centralise stroke beds out of Daisy Hill to Craigavon Area Hospital.

“After initial stabilisation in Daisy Hill, patients will travel to Craigavon and spend 16 days being treated there before returning to Daisy Hill.

“The question arises as to what they will return in Daisy Hill. Will it be a general ward or a general rehabilitation ward? The existing unit in Daisy Hill is considered to be excellent, and Daisy Hill has access to brain imaging. On this occasion, we should remember the old adage: ‘If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.’ Certainly do not dismantle it.

“Daisy Hill meets the Royal College of Surgeons national clinical guidelines, but if these changes are made, it will no longer meet those criteria. Daisy Hill has the best record for rehabilitation — 17 days, which compares very favourably with other hospitals, some of which have a stay length of 47 days.

“The geographical relocation of the unit to Craigavon presents huge difficulties for people in the areas that are served by the hospital, particularly the rural areas of South Armagh and South Down.

The A27 is not a road which facilitates speedy transfer of patients by ambulance or easy access to visits by family members, not least because it is one of the roads that has the most bends on it. It is difficult to access it from Newry; much more difficult from Crossmaglen, Annalong, Forkhill, Attical, Killean, Hilltown, Cullaville or indeed Cabra.

“70% of stroke patients are over the age of 65 and many of their spouses and family members may be of similar age, with poor mobility and health in some cases.  I don’t believe the proposals are about improving services, it’s about saving money, making cuts.  It’s not about improving accessibility.’

In closing his remarks in the Assembly Mr Bradley said: ‘I ask the Minister to look again at this decision. If the centre of excellence is needed, it should be where the excellence is, which is at Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry.”

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