Protest rally set to ignite campaign to save Daisy Hill Stroke Unit

March 2, 2015

A date has been set for a protest rally to take place in Newry to fight against the impending closure of the Daisy Hill Stroke Unit in favour of a centralised service at Craigavon Area Hospital.

During an emotional and intense public meeting last week, where concerns were raised about the potentially fatal consequences for future stroke patients from the district having to travel to Craigavon, a unanimous decision was made to hold a rally on Saturday 21st March as a show of strength and solidarity to appeal against the move.

A huge crowd attended last Thursday’s meeting in Bellinis Newry to air their views on Health Minister Jim Wells’ proposal to develop a single specialist stroke inpatient unit at Craigavon Area Hospital.  Notably absent at the council facilitated meeting were representatives of the Southern Trust.

A Trust spokesperson confirmed to The Examiner that it had been notified by Newry and Mourne District Council about the public meeting but that the Council at that stage had advised that Trust representation at the meeting was not essential.

The spokesperson admitted that the Council did make more recent contact with The Trust to invite representatives to attend the meeting “but The Chief Executive and the senior managers responsible for stroke services were unable to attend due to prior commitments.”

Emotions ran high over the course of the evening as those with first hand experience of stroke services in Daisy Hill shared their stories and made impassioned pleas for an unprecedented show of solidarity to send a clear message to Mr Wells that the removal of the local stroke unit would have a devastating impact on future generations throughout the district.

Those gathered, who included stroke victims and their families, local political representatives,  hospital staff, trade unions and community representatives heard feedback from stroke sufferers and their families which reiterated that moving the vital services to Craigavon will be extremely traumatic for stroke patients making it difficult for families to fully support their loved ones in their recovery.  Calls were echoed for political representatives to “make the voices of the people heard” in the fight to save the top quality stroke services at Daisy Hill.

The difficulty of access to Craigavon Hospital for people living in rural areas throughout the catchment area was repeatedly highlighted as a key factor for retaining the services locally at Daisy Hill as well as the fact that the proposed “centre of excellence” already exists at the hospital and can be supported by outstanding service and quality reports and awards over the years.

Local political representatives were united in pledging their support for the campaign to save the stroke services and were called upon to deliver a feasible action plan to propel the campaign forward and to lobby the Health Minister and the Southern Trust to rethink their plans.

The overwhelming message from the proceedings is that the entire community of Newry and South Armagh are opposed to cutting essential specialist services from Daisy Hill and in particular the Stroke Unit.  An agreement was made to form a steering group with a dedicated plan of action and that the campaign would move forward with renewed vigour. The protest rally has been scheduled for 21st March, the details of which will be forthcoming in the days and weeks ahead via a facebook page and local media.

In reply to The Examiner’s qery regarding the Southern Trust no-show at the important meeting, a Trust spokesperson added,

“During our consultation period we met with many public representatives, organisations that advocate for service users, partner organisations and staff from across the Trust and we listened carefully to their views on our proposals. We received over 150 direct responses and we have considered all the points made in these written proposals alongside the views expressed in our face to face meetings.

“The evidence clearly indicates that the development of a single specialist stroke inpatient unit within the Southern Trust at Craigavon Area Hospital will increase people’s chances of surviving a stroke.”