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Staff and Patients will be dismayed at plans for Armagh Hospitals

27 May, 2008


Sinn Féin Newry and Armagh MLA, Cathal Boylan, has said staff and patients at the St. Lukes and Longstone hospital sites in Armagh City will be very worried about the future plans for both sites revealed by the Health Minister, Micheal McGimpsey, under sustained questioning from the local MLA.

Mr Boylan said:

"I have been directing questions on behalf of concerned staff to the Health Minister, Michael McGimpsey over the last few weeks when they first came to me after I highlighted two wards closing and transferring to Craigavon from St. Lukes.

"All too late, as staff have already been informed they can expect to be out of work within 18 to 36 months. The Minister has at last decided to answer my questions, and they corroborate the information I have been receiving from concerned staff. These important health facilities are to be run down and in all probability closed within the next 3 years."

"I asked the Minister to outline his Departments plans to close further wards at St. Lukes, Longstone and Mullinure hospital sites, and whether he could confirm the transfer of patients from these sites, and also to confirm redundancies amongst staff due to any ward closures. His answered with the following;

'The Southern Trust is developing its services in line with the Bamford Review of Mental Health and Learning Disability and the strategic direction for older people's services. This will enhance the quality of care for individuals, through the enhanced availability of community-based services, enabling fewer hospital admissions and shorter hospital stays.

In line with its work to achieve the Programme for Government target that no one should be living permanently in hospital by 2013, the Southern Trust plans to re-settle a number of patients this year from one unit in Longstone Hospital to new supported accommodation in Bessbrook. The continuation of this resettlement programme will lead to the closure of two further units at this hospital by 2011, resulting in a total of 35 patients being resettled in the community.

There are no definitive plans to close wards at Mullinure Hospital.

At St. Luke's, two wards which had been temporarily re-sited there from the Craigavon Area Hospital site, will return to their original location when the Bluestone Unit there opens.

The Trust is also working to reduce the number of beds available at this hospital by 30 by 2011, with the associated closure of 3 long stay wards in line with implementing the Bamford Review and the Priorities for Action target of reducing the number of long-stay patients in psychiatric hospitals by 10%. The opening of new day hospitals in Newry and Dungannon and the expansion of Home Treatment Teams are central to this process. It is too early to specify the implications for staff of these service developments."

Cathal Boylan added:

"Many patients are being transferred to sheltered housing in the Newry and Bessbrook areas and others are to be placed on the Care in the Community scheme. Staff are desperately upset about this, as many elderly residents cannot even tolerate being moved to a different ward never mind totally alien surroundings. Many will not be able to cope and those who care for them are really worried for their welfare above all else.

"I share the anger of the staff and patients that they have been treated like this. Lets be honest, if I had not realised that the new unit in Craigavon was bound to have an impact on St. Lukes and asked the question, then the further questions and concern from staff would have gone unnoticed and these decisions - which obviously have not been taken overnight - would probably still not be divulged to staff and patients. It is only because pressure was being brought on the Health Minister and his Department that they have chosen to tell staff their plans.

"I will be seeking meetings as a matter of urgency with the Management and Trustees of St. Lukes and Longstone, and the Health Trust, I will also continue to ask questions about the Mullinure site. This is a cruel blow to all those involved with these hospitals, and it will have a devastating effect on the local economy as these hospitals are major employers within the district." ENDS

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