Daisy Hill’s Emergency Department could be re-opened in September.
That’s according to a Pathfinder group set up in 2017 to help find a long-term solution to maintain emergency care services at the Newry hospital.
The Emergency Department was temporarily closed by the Southern Trust in March to help combat the spread of Covid-19 – a fight which is ongoing.
And today (Thursday) the Daisy Hill Pathfinder Group issued a statement outlining a possible return of Emergency services at the hospital in September.
“As core members of the Daisy Hill Pathfinder Group, we have worked to retain and expand the Emergency Department (ED) in Daisy Hill for over two years now,” said a group spokesperson.
“Before the arrival of Covid-19 we had been successful in helping to secure £7million in funding as well as more staff, new wards and services for Daisy Hill Hospital.
“This required lot of hard work but has ultimately been worth it to see the hospital expand and provide additional services for our community.
“With the arrival of Covid-19 in this area, the temporary closure of the ED at Daisy Hill was agreed by the Pathfinder Group to allow Daisy Hill to remain as Covid-free as possible and treat Southern Trust non-Covid patients.
“We are not sure if people are aware of the level of Covid-19 infections in the Southern Trust area, but at the peak it was high and has sadly resulted in a significant number of deaths.
“Moving the ED to Craigavon and only transferring non-Covid patients back to Daisy Hill has kept the disease spread low in this area. This required a huge amount of work and commitment from staff members and has saved many lives.”
The group added that the decision was “not taken lightly” and the impact of that decision “is not to be underestimated”.
The spokesperson added: “The disease, however, has not been eradicated. It is still circulating, is still highly contagious and there remains no significant treatment developments for those who become seriously ill with the virus.
“We continue to work in partnership with the Southern Trust to get services returned to Daisy Hill now that the disease level is lower, but please appreciate that Daisy Hill is a small site with limited space.
“This means the ED requires significant structural change to make it capable of providing treatment while maintaining safe social distancing.
“We do not want Covid-19 in the hospital if possible since this would lead to community transmission in our area and ultimately more people suffering and further deaths.
“Every possible use of space is being made in Daisy Hill and we are working hard on finding a solution to this problem in partnership with staff in the Trust.
“We as a group have all committed a huge amount of time and effort to ensure that Daisy Hill can offer everything this area deserves, and a functioning ED is at the heart of that provision. Under no circumstances would the Pathfinder group ever accept anything less.
“We note that politicians and others have recently been expressing concerns about the return of the ED to Daisy Hill and we acknowledge those concerns, but we can assure the community of Newry, Mourne, South Armagh and Down that ED will most definitely be returned to Daisy Hill Hospital.
“It was working in partnership with the community that helped reverse the proposed decision to close the ED at night and we as Pathfinder members have continued the hard work after the initial protests subsided.
“The full ED will be returning, about that we are in no doubt, however Covid-19 remains a real threat. In acknowledgement of that continued threat we need to get the reopening of ED right.
“Southern Trust Management, Medical Staff and Pathfinder members are working towards the collective goal of having the ED reopened in September 2020. To do this we need to make sure that this does not increase the risk of additional Covid infections in the community.
“We urge the public to have patience and faith that we as community reps would not give false reassurance, we have worked on your behalf for the past three years with the sole purpose of sustaining and improving Daisy Hill.
“Please be assured that everyone is working towards ensuring that the service returns as fast and as safely as possible.”
Newry and Armagh MLA Liz Kimmins said the statement from the Pathfinder Group is welcome and brings further clarity to the situation.
The Sinn Féin MLA urged that the restoration of Daisy Hill’s Emergency Department happens as soon as possible.
“The absence of Emergency Department Services in Daisy Hill Newry continues to cause huge concern and the reopening of our sports grounds and the playing of games will further compound these concerns,” she said.
“One local hurling club official I talked to voiced his genuine worries that a player who received an injury during a game would have to travel to Craigavon Hospital to access medical treatment.
“This potentially has serious implications. Sporting Bodies have worked hard to make their games safer but ultimately their will always be injuries, and the absence of an Emergency Department in Daisy Hill will being further pressure on Craigavon Hospital staff and Ambulance services.
“As a local MLA, and as a citizen of Newry, the restoration of services and subsequent expansion of Daisy Hill Hospital is a key priority for me, and for my Sinn Féin colleague’s and we will work with all Agencies and stakeholders to ensure this is done safely, promptly and professionally.”