Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Stroke patients ‘will die’ if Daisy Hill acute unit is closed: Feely

Encouraging the south Armagh population to support Saturday’s public rally to save stroke services at Daisy Hill hospital, SDLP Councillor Frank Feely says it is vitally important the existing acute unit is retained if stroke patients, particularly in rural areas of south Armagh, are to have the best chance of recovery.

Mr Feely claims the proposal by the Southern Health Trust and Health Minister Jim Wells to centralise stroke services in Craigavon is in complete contrast to the wishes of the 87 per cent who responded to public consultation, favouring the retention of the facility in Daisy Hill.  To press on with such plans would be “completely anti-democratic” and the actions of a “dictatorship” he said.

“There are 6,000 people in south Armagh over the age of 65 and unfortunately some of them will get strokes in the future, so it is very important for everyone to keep the Stroke Unit at Daisy Hill Hospital so that they can get there quickly and have a much better chance of a full recovery,” he said.

Pointing out that it is the wishes of the majority to keep the two acute hospitals, which, between them, annually treat approximately 600 people in the Southern area who suffer a stroke.

“There are two hospitals in the west coast of Northern Ireland, and the east coast of Northern Ireland – with double the population – certainly needs two stroke units,” he said.

“Travel to Craigavon hospital is a major problem for the people in rural areas in south Armagh and south Down where altogether there are more than 12,000 people over the age of 65.   Many future stroke patients will die if they have to travel for 3.5 or 4.5 hours to get to Craigavon.”

Quoting the advice provided by the National Stroke Unit – that if a patient with a stroke is in a hospital, they should be moved immediately to a stroke unit in the same hospital to give them a better chance of recovery – he said this advice clearly underlines the need for two such facilities.

“The [Southern] Health Trust is working with the Commissioner against the wishes of the people of Newry and Mourne and worse still the Minister, Mr Jim Wells appears to support them,” Councillor Feely added.

To enable Daisy Hill to gain specialist status, Mr Feely says all that is needed is a further two consultants, two nurses and an MRI scanner “to make it fully operational 24/7”.

“Under the new [proposed] system patients will not receive equal care because Newry and Mourne patients will have to make multiple ambulance journeys to Craigavon and back to Daisy Hill which is completely contrary to the advice of the National Audit Team, which is the expert on stroke matters.  “Daisy Hill Stroke Unit is recognised throughout Northern Ireland as having an excellent system of care for patients and is actually copied in other hospitals,” he said.”

“It is a vital necessity for the future health and wellbeing of the 100,000 people that live in Newry and Mourne to keep all the services that exist at Daisy Hill Hospital for the benefit of all the people.  The specialist care given to the stroke patients in hospital immediately following their stroke shapes their long term recovery and the people of Newry and Mourne  can only get that immediate care in Daisy Hill Stroke Unit,” he added.