Sinn Féin say rurality must drive decision on Mournes out-of-hours care
South Down MLA Caitríona Ruane, speaking after issuing Sinn Féin's response to the Consultation Paper on the future Provision of Out-of-Hours Care in the Mournes said that need and rurality must take priority over service costs when the final decision by the SHSSB is made.
Ms Ruane continued,
"Sinn Féin's response to this consultation paper makes clear that the relative remoteness of the Mournes; poor public and private transport links and the provision of healthcare for the large tourist population during the summer season must be considered along with the needs of single parent families and an increasingly elderly population.
"At the very minimum, the retention of the current level of services remains crucially important to the health, economy and viability of the Mournes area. Indeed, a central tenant to any framework for rural healthcare provision must be the enhancement and extension of primary care in the Mournes. We need to maximize the services that can be safely made available in our rural towns and villages.
"The main area of concern for rural communities within the Mournes is the retention of and confidence in, appropriate systems to cope with that proportion of out-of ours activity that constitutes a genuine emergency. Yet it remains unclear from the SHSSB consultation paper as to how to how this will be achieved.
"The figures and statistics contained in the consultation paper do not take into account the major growth in the area's population from April to late September through tourism, or the large numbers of people who visit what is an increasing popular destination for outdoor pursuits' activities, such as mountaineering, hill walking as well as water-based activities.
"Clearly the GP out-of-hours service currently on offer to the population of the Mournes is woefully inadequate. Vulnerable people are putting their health and well being at risk because they are unwilling or unable to travel the long distances required to access the out-of-hours service in Newry City. The proposal to offer an enhanced nursing service is a totally inadequate response to the needs of the Mourne population. What is clearly needed is a minimum, locally based doctor led GP out-of-hours service until midnight on weekdays and from 9am until 12 midnight at weekends. People in The Mournes will not accept anything less." ENDS