SDLP Councillor Michael Savage in his role as First Citizen of the District attended and spoke at the Save Our Emergency Surgery Rally in Newry on Saturday.
Speaking after the rally he said: “While I accept we are taking positive steps forward through the work of groups like the Daisy Hill Future Group there are still significant questions that remain unanswered by the Southern Trust.
“The Trust has still to clarify and provide detailed reassurances backed up by clinical evidence as to how it can continually and repeatedly tell us that our Type 1 Emergency Department is not under threat yet at the same time is advocating the removal of one of its own essential criteria for a Type 1 ED namely the removal of Emergency General Surgery on a permanent basis.
“If those detailed and clinically backed assurances had been outlined by the Trust at some stage over the last seven weeks since I asked for them at the public meeting on March 7th then perhaps our citizens may not have felt it necessary to take to the streets in protest.
“The removal of Emergency General Surgery is seen by ordinary citizens as a clear and present danger to our Type 1 ED status at Daisy Hill. That’s not me making presumptions – it’s in the Trust’s own criteria. In the absence of clarity and reassurance backed by clinical evidence that threat remains real in the eyes of the service users at Daisy Hill ED.”
Mr Savage added: “We are also waiting on clarification and detail on the mitigations put in place to deal with delay, time and risk when a surgeon has to be dispatched from Craigavon to perform emergency surgery at Daisy Hill due to the patient being too ill or vulnerable to travel, which has happened on at least two occasions since the ‘temporary’ removal of Emergency General Surgery from Daisy Hill. The reassurances around this issue remain unclear and have not been spelt out to the people as was asked of the Trust on March 7th.
“This whole proposal, given that we live in a large rural area stretching from Cullaville to Annalong is underpinned by the need for a properly resourced quality ambulance service which is just not there at the moment. Our ambulance crews do a magnificent job but they are stretched to the limit and under resourced and the impasse at Stormont is hampering the delivery of the resources to bring the ambulance service to the level required to meet the needs of this proposal.
“Again we asked for detailed assurances on this from the Trust and are still waiting. Generic statements stating that the Trust is confident that it can provide the ambulance cover is not enough. When you are talking about people’s lives we need detail.”
Mr Savage urged the Trust to answer the unanswered questions.
He said: “Either the Trust has a significant communication problem of there are issues around these decisions that they are not prepared to make public. If not then give us the detail and provide the clinically backed reassurances we as a community need. Maybe then our citizens may feel reassured and not feel they have no choice but to take to the streets.”
Mr Savage praised the work of the Daisy Hill Future Group and urged the Trust to get a move on with providing a development plan around an Elective Surgery Hub at Daisy Hill and the enhancement of power supply and infrastructure at the hospital.
He said: “I welcome the role that the Daisy Hill Future Group has played in securing commitments from the Trust and Department for the development of an Elective Surgery Hub at Daisy Hill and the enhancement of the power supply and the purchase of the Monaghan Row are all positive steps forward. However we need swift movement on all of these enhancements if we are to instil confidence in the long term future of our hospital that allows us all to play our part in talking up our hospital and attracting Consultants, Doctors and Nurses to Daisy Hill.
“My only concern is that we as a community have to continually come forward with the ideas and initiatives to underpin our hospital and this is evident in the work dove by Pathfinder and Daisy Hill Future Group.
“The Trust needs to work in partnership with the community in developing a thriving and sustainable acute hospital at Daisy Hill and if they do they will find willing and able partners here in this district but that partnership needs to be based on transparency, reassurance and clarity.”