Sinn Féin will fight cuts to Downe Hospital
South Down Sinn Féin Assembly Members' Caitríona Ruane and Willie Clarke have jointly condemned the decision by the South Eastern Health Trust (SEHT) to accept changes to health services and A&E cover at Downe Hospital.
Speaking after both Assembly Members and Down Councillors Mickey Coogan and Liam Johnston made presentations to the Board at a public meeting held today in Downpatrick, Ms Ruane said the SEHT has shown contempt for the thousands of people who depend on the Downe Hospital for essential care.
Ms Ruane continued: "The consultation process initiated by the SEHT was a sham from start to finish and I am not surprised they have agreed to implement these changes.
"When the new £64 million hospital opened in Downpatrick it should have heralded the start of a new era in healthcare provision in south Down. Now we learn local GPs will be expected to staff the A&E unit at Downe between 10pm and 8am as well as at weekends and acute mental in-patient services are to be moved from the Downpatrick to the Lagan Valley Hospital in Lisburn.
"Today's meeting was attended by over 200 people all of whom were unequivocal in their opposition to what was being proposed yet their concerns have been ignored. Sinn Féin will continue to fight for the retention of these essential services - we will not allow the people of south Down to be treated as second class citizens."
Cllr Clarke also made clear his opposition to the proposals and said there was justifiable anger at the cuts in services to the Downe.
He continued: "When the then Health Minister Barbra de Brún paved the way for the new replacement Downe hospital, which only opened in last year, all of us expected to have a consultant-led A&E unit.
"Now, in no small part due to the trust's failure to recruit middle-grade doctors, these hopes have been dashed.
"The lives of people in south Down are being placed at considerable risk as a result of these cuts and we will fight tooth and nail to have this decision reversed." CRÍOCH