Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Parties call for urgent action on Daisy Hill A&E

Local political representatives are calling for urgent action to be taken regarding staff shortages at Daisy Hill Emergency Department after The Examiner exclusively revealed that difficulties in recruiting and retaining staff at the hospital has led to fears of a reduction in A & E opening hours.

Both Sinn Fein and the SDLP have already met with Southern Trust officials to discuss the ongoing staffing issues and SDLP MLA Dominic Bradley has requested an urgent meeting with the Minister for Health, Social Services and Public Safety, Simon Hamilton, for further discussions.

Speaking after meeting health bosses last week, Mr Bradley said,

“The Southern Trust has sought to attract middle grade doctors and consultants for the Emergency Department on sixteen separate occasions in the last eighteen months, and yet there is still considerable pressure on the system.  This cannot continue and the Minister must take urgent action to ensure the appropriate staffing complement is in place twenty four hours a day, seven days a week.”

Commenting, his party colleague Karen McKevitt added: “We are all too aware of the current pressures on the Health Service right across this region and in particular the constant cut in services due to the lack of funding.  At present there are serious pressures in the Emergency Department at Daisy Hill and for a change this is not created by the lack of funding.  The Trust Management made it abundantly clear that the current pressures are due to the lack of manpower.  We need to see everything done that can be done to ensure those staffing shortages are addressed as a matter of urgency.”

A Sinn Fein delegation comprising of Newry and Armagh MP Mickey Brady and MLAs Conor Murphy and Megan Fearon met with Trust CEO Paula Clarke and Medical Director Dr Richard Wright early last week.

Mr Murphy said the Trust had offered assurances that there were no plans to reduce A & E opening hours but that his party would continue to monitor the situation.

“The Trust expressed concerns to us about the level of senior staff available to properly and safely run the department, but assured us that they would exhaust all available options in order to get the necessary staff to provide cover,” said Mr Murphy.

He added that the Trust had admitted that numbers using the Emergency Department in Daisy Hill had increased more than any other hospital and that this was putting added pressure on staff but said that, according to the senior members of the Southern Trust, “their only plan for Daisy Hill is to make it a fully functioning 24 hour ED; they have no plans for it beyond that.”

In the wake of continued speculation surrounding the staffing shortages and the potential consequences for A & E opening hours, a spokesperson from the Southern Health and Social Care Trust said:

“We are committed to the delivery of safe high quality services from our acute hospitals.

“Daisy Hill Hospital and particularly the Emergency Department is an extremely busy service and has seen a sustained increase in patients over the last five years. The increase in patient attendances over the last year alone has been 10% – an additional 4,230 patients.

“The Trust’s Emergency Departments at Craigavon and Daisy Hill, like many units locally and nationally, have both encountered ongoing difficulty with the recruitment and retention of senior medical staff required to support the service. The Trust has undertaken numerous recruitment drives over a period of years and continues to do so.

“We are proud of the excellent service which Daisy Hill’s Emergency Department provides.  Ensuring the delivery of safe, high quality care to our patients is and always will be our focus and we are continuing to try to work through this recruitment challenge with all key stakeholders, internal and external to the Trust.”

Paula Clarke, Chief Executive (Interim) for the Southern Health and Social Care Trust said:

“The delivery of safe high quality Emergency Services where we have the appropriate range of staff to manage the increasing number and complexity of patients attending the hospital across the 24/7 period remains our priority. We will continue to explore all options and make every effort to avoid a reduction in hours and will keep staff and the public advised.”