Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Public voice their fears over proposed Daisy Hill ED closures

There was standing room only at the Canal Court on Monday night as almost 1,000 people attended a public meeting in Newry to voice their fears about the potential closure of Daisy Hill Hospital’s Accident and Emergency Department.

The meeting was called after the Southern Trust revealed a £1m contingency plan to expand Craigavon Area Hospital’s Emergency Department to accommodate extra patients in the event of temporary closures of Daisy Hill’s Emergency Department at night time – something the Trust say is unavoidable due to ongoing difficulties in recruiting senior medical staff.  With fears  rising that the ‘contingency plan’ could result in the permanent closure of the local Emergency Department, hundreds voiced their support for the campaign to retain 24/7 emergency services at the hospital.

A political panel, which included Conor Murphy (Sinn Fein), David Taylor (UUP), Jim Wells (DUP), Patrick Brown (Alliance) and Justin McNUlty (SDLP), were united in their condemnation of the Trust’s contingency plan and vowed to work together to fight for the retention of the Emergency Department.   Notable by their absence was Newry Mourne and Down District Council Chief Executive Liam Hannaway and any representatives from the Southern Trust.  Both had been invited to attend and many protesters expressed anger that they had not shown up.

Medical staff from Daisy Hill were also present at the meeting, as well as union groups, local politicians and councillors, service users and concerned members of the public. Once the meeting was opened to the floor, impassioned pleas were made to fight to keep the Emergency Department open, with many sharing their own personal stories of medical emergencies and life-threatening situations which were all tended to at Daisy Hill ED. One such story came from Crossmaglen woman Gabrielle O’Neill, whose son, Crossmaglen Rangers star Ruairi O’Neill, contracted meningitis on 17th December last year and was left in a coma fighting for his life for days before he came around.

Gabrielle, who is a nurse and has worked in healthcare for over 30 years said her son could have died from the illness were it not for Daisy Hill ED. She said nurses cleared the Newry hospital’s resuscitation area and “saved” her son.  Mrs O’Neill also paid tribute to the ambulance personnel who worked on Ruairi at the side of the road in Annduff.  She told the meeting that her son would never have made the journey to Daisy Hill without the intervention of ambulance staff and that he would have died if he had to be rushed as far as Craigavon.

“We were 17 miles from Daisy Hill, we would have been another 50 minutes travelling to Craigavon and Ruairi would not have been saved,” she said

“Bacteria had just taken hold. Craigavon was just too far away, he needed emergency treatment there and then.”

She revealed that staff at Daisy Hill ED had stabilised her son before he was moved to Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital for further treatment.

“Had he not have been able to be stabilised, in A&E casualty, he wouldn’t be with me today,” she added.

Monday’s meeting sent a strong message to the Trust that the people of Newry and Mourne will not accept any closure of its Emergency Department at Daisy Hill – which is unanimously perceived as a precursor to the eventual permanent closure of the department and the eventual stripping away of other vital services at Daisy Hill.