- Kevin Sharkey
- BBC News NI
Hundreds of people attended a public meeting on the planned evacuation of emergency general surgery at Newleys Daisy Hill Hospital.
The service will be permanently moved to Craigavon Area Hospital under the Southern Health Trust’s proposal.
The Trust said the move was due to ongoing recruitment challenges.
However, the decision has faced fierce opposition from communities in South Down and South Armagh.
Representatives of the trust’s senior management and surgical team attended the meeting Wednesday evening.
The proposal to move Emergency General Surgery permanently is under public consultation until April 21.
The trust’s chief executive, Maria O’Kane, said it was important to the people of Newry and Morne that “their surgical outcomes were not compromised by an outdated model of care.”
Speaking at a meeting on Wednesday, Frances Gallagher said many felt that local hospitals were in danger of being “severely downgraded” due to the cancellation of emergency general surgery.
“There is no room for negotiation and we are not willing to accept any form of downgrade,” she said.
Jessica Keenan said previous generations in her family have fought to maintain services at Daisy Hill Hospital.
“In the ’70s they were trying to relocate the service. My grandfather fought. My mother fought to keep the service. I’m fighting,” Keenan said.
“It’s three generations. They’re still trying to deprive the people of Newry of the services we get.”
Dr. Donal Duffin, a member of the Daisy Hill Futures Group, said he supports the change.
“We separated emergency and non-urgent elective surgeries because we have a huge waiting list to deal with. That’s all.”
SDLP MP Justin McNulty said it was imperative that the public’s concerns were heard at the conference and acted upon.
“The decision to withdraw emergency general surgery from our hospital has been met with public outcry,” McNulty said.
“Protecting the future of Daisy Hill Hospital is extremely important,” he added.
McNulty said the meeting with trust representatives was “a great opportunity for people to voice their hopes and fears about Daisy Hill’s future.”
Niamh McArdle said he needed emergency surgery and had to be taken by ambulance to Craigavon Area Hospital.
“It wasn’t the best experience and added to the trauma of my situation,” she said.
“People often comment that it’s only a 20 minute drive, but it’s not, it’s the windiest road I’ve ever been on.
“So really, honestly, it’s not as simple as the road to Craigavon. It’s a really big deal, especially if you’re as sick as I was at the time.”
“We’re doing more surgeries than ever before.”
“The recruitment and retention of general surgical consultants is an ongoing challenge across Northern Ireland,” the Trust said in a statement.
She added that the hospital already has “a very broad and vibrant acute care specialization” and is “performing more operations in the hospital than ever before.”