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Stroke Unit Shut

Health Minister Jim Wells has been urged to intervene in the closure of the stroke unit at Daisy Hill Hospital after the Southern Health Trust confirmed that the unit is to shut. Despite a petition with over 8,000 signatures opposing the move and repeated pleas from politicians and service users, the Trust announced on Thursday that the unit will close permanently in favour of developing a centralized specialized unit in Craigavon. The move which will be implemented over the next three years will mean stroke patients will stay in Craigavon for treatment and recovery with loved ones living in the Newry area forced to make a 40 mile return journey for visits while families living in South Down face a journey of up to 80 miles. The decision came after a 20 week consultation period during which members of the public and people affected by stroke had the chance to read and respond to the Trust’s proposals. According to Trust Chairwoman Roberta Brownlee all responses were fully considered and the key issues discussed by the Trust Board before reaching a final decision. But Newry councillor and former Daisy Hill nurse John McArdle claimed last month that the decision had already been made and said that the move is down to money. “They said they couldn’t afford to provide physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy in the two sites and I got that from the top,” he said. “This move is simply down to money. We need to ask the Health Minister Jim Wells for intervention. He is a representative for South Down and so many people in the South Down area are going to be severely affected by this.” Mr McArdle also criticized high profile politicians which he said didn’t do enough to fight the proposals adding: “What have the major politicians done? They have done nothing.” Earlier this year the Trust told the Democrat that the centralization of stroke services in Craigavon would lead to better health outcomes for patients in Newry and Mourne. Reiterating that stance Ms Brownlee said Thursday’s decision was vital to ensuring quality healthcare in the Southern Trust Area. She added: “our plans set out a clear direction for how services much change in future if we are to maintain and develop hospital based care of the finest quality. We will continue to engage with users, staff and our local community as we develop our implementation plans for these major developments which I believe are vital for ensuring quality healthcare in the Southern Trust.” However Newry MLA Micky Brady said recent performances by Daisy Hill and Craigavon indicated that the Newry based hospital should have been chosen as the local for a centralized specialist stroke unit. He said: “Proposals by the Trust to remove the specialist stroke unit from Daisy Hill do not stand up. It is widely recognized that Daisy Hill has provided the best stroke services in the north. This is evidenced by the fact in 2011/2012 the average length of stay for stro9ke patients at Daisy Hill was 17 days while at Craigavon the stay averaged at 47 days. On value for money alone and provision service the Daisy Hill Unit delivers. The Trust should further invest in and develop the strke unit in Daisy Hill which would result in the provision of increased rapid access to special investigation and treatment to all on a region basis.”


2nd December 2014

Newry Democrat