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    A PUBLIC rally against reducing services at Daisy Hill Hospital will be held later this month. The event has been organised by the SOS Daisy Hill Committee (the new name for the Save Our Emergency Surgery Committee), and comes in the wake of the removal of stroke services and reports of Southern Trust proposals – included in a presentation to staff – that would reduce services in Newry and see the hospital’s bed numbers fall from 107 to 40.

    The rally on Sunday 25 June will begin at the city’s Marcus Square at 2pm, and there will also be a march to the nearby Daisy Hill.

    The committee hosted a packed public meeting in Newry last Wednesday, and took their protest to Department of Health headquarters at Stormont on Monday. Speaking after last week’s meeting, committee chairman Francis Gallagher said that they were organising another rally – following on from one in April – to show the Trust “how angry the communities of Newry, south Down and south Armagh are”, and “to allow our residents to vote with their feet regarding the reduction in medical services”. “I am calling on the communities in Newry, south Armagh and south Down, and residents from Louth, Monaghan and Cavan who use Daisy Hill Hospital services to please attend our rally,” he stated. “It is very important that as many people as possible attend this event. “We need to display our anger at the reduction in medical services at Daisy Hill Hospital. “I am saying, ‘Hands off Daisy Hill Hospital’.” Mr Gallagher confirmed that the change in the committee’s name “coincided with the announcement of draconian measures recommended by the Southern Trust to reduce medical services and reduce the number of patient beds”. “I was astounded at the anger displayed at the public meeting, regarding the recently announced reduction in medical services and inpatient beds at Daisy Hill Hospital, as people feel very worried,” he said. “I attended the public consultation on the proposed transfer of emergency surgery from Daisy Hill to Craigavon Area Hospital, at which major positive announcements were made on proposed future developments at Daisy Hill, and no mention was made about the recently detailed reduction in medical services. “I am shocked and dismayed by the actions of the Trust, which in my view have been very poorly thought-out and brings serious implications for the health of communities in Newry, south Down and south Armagh. “The lack of proper communication on the Trust’s proposals has shocked our community, and my heart goes out to the staff at the hospital, who have provided fantastic healthcare to our community for decades and find themselves in the complete dark regarding their future employment in the health sector.”

    He concluded that the committee will “do all we can to get these proposals stopped and allow time for proper consultation on these poorly thought-out actions”. In a statement, Trust chief executive Dr Maria O’Kane thanked “all colleagues who have been sharing suggestions on the proposals presented last week to keep medical inpatients safe, in light of our medical staffing issues at Daisy Hill Hospital”. “This is a very difficult time for staff, but we are encouraged by their enthusiasm to work with us to modernise and improve services for patients,” she said. “From late July, we will have limited substantive medical consultants working at Daisy Hill, and this could potentially impact on the number of other doctors we are allocated in August. “Our initial focus is to immediately stabilise staffing for the summer months in anticipation of a more permanent solution.” She added that, since last week, the Trust has “continued to develop and refine our plans as we have received more data and considered feedback from our own Trust staff and regional health and social care colleagues”. “Through these plans, we aim to prevent and reduce inpatient medical admissions by developing more same day emergency care and enhancing community services to better ensure that people who don’t need to be in hospital can be appropriately supported at home. “We will offer alternatives to inpatient medical admissions.” Dr O’Kane highlighted that the Trust has “asked for regional support with senior medical cover to stabilise staffing at Daisy Hill as an interim contingency measure, to mitigate immediate patient safety concerns and maintain onsite acute medical service provision”. “This would also help us to meet education requirements to support junior doctors,” she said. “We have also requested a project to address the ongoing workforce challenges faced by all local hospitals in Northern Ireland and secure their future as an important part of the regional acute hospital network.”

    The statement noted that the chief executive has “advised on all staff briefings and communication that no jobs will be lost, but there may be changes to the way we all work and, indeed, many opportunities through these new, innovative ways of working”.

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