A new Direct Assessment Unit at Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry has been officially opened.
It was one of the proposals agreed through the Daisy Hill Pathfinder Project to help sustain and develop unscheduled care services for the Newry and Mourne population.
The Permanent Secretary of the Department for Health, Mr Richard Pengelly, performed the official duties.
He said: “In many ways this fantastic new £1 million setting illustrates the fact that change, progress and transformation are essential elements as we seek to adapt to the needs of the community that we serve.
“The multi-disciplinary team working within the Unit with others, including colleagues in the ambulance service and GP practices, will ensure that the people of the Newry and Mourne area receive enhanced, excellent treatment and that more patients receive the right care in the right place and at the right time.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who worked in such a collaborative way on the Pathfinder Project and whose efforts have already borne fruit as is evidence by today’s opening.”
The unit is staffed by a team of medics, nurses, social workers, pharmacy and allied health professionals with administrative support. They offer diagnostics, observation and treatment for patients who do not need life-saving Emergency Care but do require urgent medical attention.
Speaking at the opening, Chief Executive of the Southern Trust Shane Devlin said: “With our continually growing population and increased demand for unscheduled care services, the Direct Assessment Unit is a welcome boost to help us make sure that more patients receive the right treatment at the right time.
“Through forward thinking and real partnership working between the local community and health and social care staff, we have been able to overcome some of the many challenges we face in delivering sustainable services for the people of Newry and Mourne.
“Since the unit opened for business in February, the team have treated over 550 people, freeing up staff time and clinical space within the Emergency Department for those patients who really do need immediate acute emergency care.
“Whilst we acknowledge that challenges remain, we will continue to work together to help ensure that local people have the right services to meet their needs.”
Local GP and Chair of Newry and Mourne GP Federation, Dr Laurence Dorman who has used the new unit, added: “Working as a GP is challenging and particularly difficult when trying to avoid hospital admission for patients with complex needs.
“I have been very grateful for the Direct Assessment Unit on a number of occasions since it has opened, for example for a patient with Alzheimer’s disease who would not take oral medication for an infection.
“An inpatient admission in this case was not in the patient’s best interest so I was delighted with the support and enormous compassion from the team who gave her intravenous antibiotics and fluids which quickly improved her condition so she could go home that night, avoiding further distress and disruption.
“I really look forward to using this service more in the future as it is a great alternative to the Emergency Department for those patients who are not critically ill but do require some escalation of care.”
Patients will be referred to the Direct Assessment Unit if appropriate through the Emergency Department, Northern Ireland Ambulance Service or by their GP.