Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Trust accused of “ignoring” public opinion on Stroke Unit closure

The Southern Trust has been accused of completely ignoring  the views of the public, elected representatives, Daisy Hill Hospital staff, stroke sufferers and their families in relation to the closure of the Stroke Unit at Daisy Hill.

In a statement issued by the Trust following a public meeting held in Bellini’s on Thursday 26th February to discuss the issue, a Southern Trust spokesperson reiterated the Trust’s position on the closure, insisting that the views of “public representatives, organisations that advocate for service users, partner organisations and staff from across the Trust” had been “carefully” listened to during a 20 week public consultation process regarding Trust stroke services.

The Trust concluded that “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.”

Local political representatives were united in their condemnation of the Trust’s claims with

Sinn Féin MLA Mickey Brady commenting,

“This statement  has been met with great dismay and sadness in the local community. The Trust, we believe, has completely ignored the strong views held by the public, elected representatives, staff and local Trade Unions against the proposal to close the vital Unit..”

Mr Brady said the proposals by the Trust to remove the specialist stroke inpatient Unit from Newry’s local hospital “do not stack up” given that it is widely recognised that Daisy Hill has provided the best stroke service in Northern Ireland.

“This is evidenced by the fact that in 2011/2012 the average length of stay for stroke patients at Daisy Hill was 17 days whereas at Craigavon Hospital it was 47 days,” said the Sinn Fein Newry and Armagh MLA.

“On value for money alone and provision of service, the Daisy Hill Unit delivers. The Trust should further invest in and develop the Stroke Unit in Daisy Hill which would result in the provision of increased rapid access to specialist investigation and treatment to all on a regional basis.”

He added that feedback from families of stroke sufferers suggested that moving stroke services to Craigavon will be “extremely traumatic” for stroke patients “and make it unworkable for families to fully support their loved ones”.

The Sinn Fein Westminster candidate said a “united cohesive campaign” was now essential to protect all services at Daisy Hill.

His sentiments were echoed by SDLP Newry and Armagh Westminster Representative Justin McNulty who described the response of the Trust reaffirming their decision to permanently relocate the Stroke Unit from Daisy Hill Hospital to Craigavon Area Hospital as “a huge blow to Newry and South Armagh and in particular to our stroke sufferers and their families.”

As the public campaign continues to strongly lobby for the retention of the stroke unit, Mr McNulty said the Trust had  “completely ignored the feelings of local people, local health professionals and local stroke sufferers and their families.”

“At the very heart of this issue is our stroke sufferers and their families and we all want to ensure that they have access to the very best care and treatment,” he added.

“I believe that highest standard of care and treatment should be available at Daisy Hill.

“Daisy Hill Hospital is an essential service for the people of Newry and south Armagh and I pledge to do all in power to secure essential services and specialist care in Daisy Hill in the future.”

The socialist republican party, éirígí, accused the Stormont administration of “implementing Thatcher-like right-wing policies rather than creating an efficient health service available and accessible to all.”

Eirigi spokesperson Stephen Murney said,

“The impeding removal of the award winning Stroke Unit in Daisy Hill must be stopped in its tracks. The campaign which has been launched to save the Daisy Hill Stroke Unit is to be welcomed and it is important that people in Newry and the surrounding areas throw their full support behind that campaign.”