Daisy Hill hospital crisis escalates as Trust bosses cut bed numbers

The staffing crisis at Daisy Hill Hospital is continuing to escalate, with Trust bosses now having to consider drastically cutting ward beds by more than half.

Due to patient safety concerns it has been proposed that the number of beds at the hospital be reduced from 107 to 40 as an interim measure.

There are also concerns that by the end of July the hospital will be left with just one consultant and potentially no junior doctors in August.

Discussions are ongoing between the Southern Trust and other health trusts to see what mutual aid can be provided.

The Southern Trust has proposed a number of measures to reduce inpatient bed capacity, including opening a 40 bed short stay unit, where patients would be automatically transferred or discharged within 36 hours. A lot of focus will also be placed on acute and hospital care being delivered in the community.

The Trust hopes these measures will help ensure the retention of the hospital's 24/7 Emergency Department.

However, one doctor has warned that the staffing crisis at Daisy Hill Hospital will have an impact on hospitals and primary care right across Northern Ireland.

Dr Clodagh Corrigan, of the British Medical Association, described the measures being taken by the Southern Trust as "very extreme".

Ther ED specialist added however: "It's a place that nobody wanted to get to, but it is a place we could see coming for the past 10 or 15 years.

"There has been a dire under investment in our Health and Social Care Trusts, there have been countless transformation reports and countless different reviews into the provision of health care services.

"The workforce strategy has not met the needs of our health service. Although we are at a crisis point now, this is something the BMA and staff of all hospitals have been seeing for a very long time."

Dr Corrigan warned about the impact the move is likely to have on other hospitals.

"Any transformation, any change, would be better done in a planned, controlled method.

"This is not planned, this is not controlled, this is falling off the cliff edge and that's not good for staff, patients and hospitals in the region.

"There can't be any outcome other than impact on primary care or other hospitals - be that Craigavon Area Hospital having to field some of the overflow or the hospitals further afield.

"That could be the Ulster, Belfast, we could find overflowing into Antrim, even south of the border."

She also warned that "other hospitals are going to start falling in the same way Daisy Hill is falling."

The Department of Health said it is working closely with Southern Trust as it addresses the serious challenges in medical staffing at Daisy Hill Hospital.

In a statement, the Department added: "As the Trust has stated, every avenue will be pursued to protect services.

"Daisy Hill provides a vital service to the local population and is an important part of NI’s hospital network.

"There will be a two-pronged approach to the situation – an immediate focus on stabilising services and longer term work to ensure a sustainable future for Daisy Hill and other hospitals of a similar size."

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