Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Consultant’s resignation sparks fears over future of local Emergency Department

The Southern Trust has sought to assure the public that it is exhausting “every recruitment option” in order to attract senior medical staff to work in Daisy Hill Hospital, following the revelation made by SDLP Assembly Member for Newry and Armagh, Dominic Bradley, that a Consultant in the hospital’s Emergency Department has resigned and will leave his post in February.

Mr Bradley and local representative Justin McNulty met with the Chief Executive of the Southern Health and Social Care Trust Paula Clarke on Thursday afternoon to express their deep concerns over the future of twenty-four-seven Consultant cover at the Emergency Department at Daisy Hill in Newry, in the wake of the news of the top level resignation.

The SDLP MLA voiced widely held fears that the shortage of Consultants in the Emergency Department could mean a reduction in operation hours, with the department potentially closing at night. He added that the resignation of an Emergency Department Consultant will place even more pressure on “an already fragile service.”

Mr Bradley said he and Mr McNulty had pressed the Chief Executive on recruitment plans and sought assurances that plans will be in place to ensure that a twenty-four-seven service is retained at Daisy Hill Emergency Department.

His party colleague, Justin McNulty underlined the importance of the Emergency Department as a vital resource for the local community and said news of the senior level resignation was

“another blow to the service locally.”

“We need to see the Southern Trust put in place plans to ensure the twenty-four-seven service is retained at Daisy Hill Emergency Department, even if that means moving consultants from other sites or elsewhere in Northern Ireland,” he said.

Mr McNulty said his party would continue its engagement with the Chief Executive and her team to ensure the vital service is protected and revealed that he and Mr Bradley  have requested a meeting with the Minister Simon Hamilton on the issue.

“We need to see the Trust, the Department and ultimately the Minister Simon Hamilton ensure that the Emergency Department at Daisy Hill is retained into the future on a full time and permanent basis.”

In response to the growing concerns about the future of the local Emergency Department, a Trust spokesperson told The Examiner,

“The Trust has been open about our challenges with the recruitment and retention of senior medical staff in Daisy Hill Hospital.

“We continue to face challenges with the recruitment and retention of senior medical staff required to safely sustain the Emergency Department at Daisy Hill hospital on a 24/7 basis.”

The spokesperson admitted that the recruitment challenge had increased with the resignation of the senior member of Emergency Department staff but stressed that the Trust “will continue, over the coming months, to exhaust every recruitment option to attract senior medical staff to work in Daisy Hill Hospital.”

“However, the UK-wide shortage of Middle Grade and Consultant emergency medical staff continues to present significant difficulties with both recruitment and retention of suitably qualified doctors.

“Senior medical staff from Daisy Hill and Craigavon Hospitals recently agreed a management plan for the emergency department in Daisy Hill so it can remain open overnight and these new arrangements are now in-place and are working effectively.

Paula Clarke, Southern Trust (Interim) Chief Executive said that despite the challenges and setback of losing an experienced senior member of staff, the Trust have “an excellent team in Daisy Hill and we remain committed to a 24/7 ED service in Daisy Hill.”

“We are working with the Health and Social Care Board and the Public Health Agency to do everything possible to maintain this service,” she insisted.

“We will continue to ensure that the public is kept informed of any developments or changes on this important local issue.”