Stroke services will no longer be offered at Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry.
Instead patients will now be diverted to Craigavon Area Hospital from 9am on Wednesday 31 May.
The Southern Trust says it is being forced to make the decision due to staffing issues at the hospital and that other services are also at risk.
It added that the hospital had an “increasing reliance on medical locum cover” and that a number of consultant medical staff were ending their tenure at the hospital.
The British Medical Association have described the move as “extremely worrying”.
“Acute medical services at the hospital look increasingly precarious. Transformation due to service collapse benefits neither patients nor doctors and destabilises services for patients,” said BMA NI Council chair Dr Tom Black.
“There will be a knock-on effects on services in Craigavon Hospital and any further attrition would impact GP services in the area as well, thus putting unacceptable pressure on different parts of the health service.
“BMA have consistently warned that without investment in our workforce people would walk away, and the situation at Daisy Hill is evidence of that failure.”
Speaking at the monthly Trust Board meeting in Newry, Chief Executive Dr Maria O’Kane set out the challenges with medical staffing - across the Trust in some specialties and particularly at Daisy Hill Hospital.
“The regional and international shortage of consultants, difficulties recruiting specialist grade and junior doctors and the serious over-reliance on locum doctors are matters of great concern in meeting the demand for acute inpatient medicine and providing stable medical staffing cover in our medical wards,” she said.
“This situation is certainly not unique to Daisy Hill Hospital. The shortage of medical staff is extremely challenging in Northern Ireland, and indeed further afield.
Dr O’Kane added: “We continue to pursue every viable option to minimise the impact of this situation and stabilise our workforce.
“We are also working with other Trusts in Northern Ireland and the Department of Health to help us through this situation. A meeting will take place next week involving all Trusts to seek support to address these challenges. However, it needs to be recognised that medical staffing is already stretched across Craigavon Area and other NI hospitals, so any support is likely to be limited. Our initial focus will be to stabilise staffing for the summer months in anticipation of a more permanent solution.
“Ensuring patient safety and supporting our staff will be absolute priorities. We are very proud of the care provided by our medical staff, who have been working in very difficult circumstances.
“We have also engaged Nuffield Trust to review acute medicine locally across our hospitals and using their recommendations to address the challenges, to support the development of services into the future.”
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