The Southern Trust have released a statement explaining their decision for a "temporary" closure of the Emergency Department at Daisy Hill Hospital deciding to run just one emergency department at Craigavon Hospital.

From this Saturday the Southern Trust will temporarily close the Emergency Department "in anticipation of an increase in patients with COVID-19 in hospital"

Interim director of acute hospitals, Melaine McClements said: “To ensure the safety of staff and patients, we have taken the essential decision to run one Emergency Department, which will be at Craigavon Area Hospital. This means a temporary closure of Daisy Hill’s Emergency Department, effective from 2pm on Saturday March 28th, 2020.

Daisy Hill Hospital. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/
Daisy Hill Hospital. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/

“This is not a decision we have taken lightly, but these are exceptional circumstances. This move allows us to consolidate our emergency, intensive care and respiratory expertise all one site which will give us a much more robust service in the weeks ahead.

“If we don’t work to make these changes now, we risk services on both sites collapsing as we expect staffing levels to be impacted in weeks to come."

Other services will continue. Some planned surgical work will be moving from Craigavon to Daisy Hill.

Maternity services will be continuing on both sites, although some routine/low risk patients may have their care transferred to Daisy Hill. Patients affected by these changes will be contacted directly.

Ms McClements added "Daisy Hill Hospital Emergency Department is a key part of our service provision. This is a temporary measure to deal specifically with Covid-19. Please be assured that this service will re-open once the immediate situation improves. In the meantime, please stay at home, wash your hands, keep your distance."

View a video below from Clinical Director, Emergency Medicine, Daisy Hill Hospital Emergency Department, Gareth Hampton

Update 3pm

Sinn Féin MP Mickey Brady has said Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry will be repurposed during the COVID-19 crisis.

The Newry and Armagh MP, speaking alongside Chris Hazzard MP and Liz Kimmins MLA, said:

“The Southern Trust have announced that Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry will be repurposed during the COVID-19 outbreak.

“As a result the A&E department at the hospital will be closed to walk-in patients in order to maintain a sterile facility to help fight this public health emergency.

"It will be used for non COVID-19 cases only and positive cases will be treated elsewhere.

“This is a necessary step in order to help keep the local population safe and I would appeal to the public to follow the guidelines around using the hospital.

“Local people need assurances, however, about the future of Daisy HIll Hospital, and guarantees that it will fully reopen after this emergency.

“Rather than create unnecessary uncertainty in these challenging times, the Trust should clearly indicate that Daisy Hill Accident & Emergency Services will return as soon as possible

“We will remain in contact with the hospital and the Department of Health and keep people updated on the latest developments with the hospital during this crisis.”

Update 4pm

Newry and Armagh MLA Justin McNulty has said today’s decision by the Southern Health and Social Care Trust to temporarily close the Emergency Department at Daisy Hill in Newry should only be seen as a temporary measure.

Mr McNulty said, ‘Our world has been turned upside down. These are challenging and unprecedented times, and that calls for unprecedented measures.  I have spoken at length with the Chief Executive of the Southern Trust, Shane Devlin and he has explained the rationale behind this move.  He has also given me a cast iron personal guarantee that these measures are temporary and will reverse at the other end of this pandemic.  He also reaffirmed this commitment in a public statement issued by the trust.’

‘I understand this news will be greeted with some unease, and that both hospital staff and constituents are fearful that this move could become permanent.  I have been reassured this will not be the case and I will continue to liaise with the Chief Executive in this regard.  This decision has been made by doctors who are focused solely on saving as many lives as possible.’

‘Craigavon Area Hospital will become a hot-site hospital and will deal with the intensive sickness that will present as an outcome of the contraction of coronavirus. The Southern Trust Emergency Department will be in Craigavon with patients being on arrival as either respiratory or non-respiratory.  Daisy Hill Hospital will be a cold-site hospital and the Emergency Department will close for the duration of this pandemic. Those people who travel to the ED in Craigavon from Newry Mourne and South Armagh and who need admitted but have not contracted the coronavirus will be transported back to Daisy Hill.  Daisy Hill Hospital will remain a vital and busy site in the months and years ahead and it will have its Emergency Department restored as soon as we are over this. These temporary measures may mean staff temporarily relocating to follow their service should it move to Craigavon and visa-versa.’

In conclusion, Mr McNutly added, ‘During this time of crisis people are having to adapt to extraordinary measures, and adherence to these measures will save lives. Our communities are responding to the needs of the vulnerable and of their fellow citizens.  I want to commend everyone involved.  Today it has been confirmed that the Armagh City Hotel is to be used as an accommodation facility for staff working in the health and social care sector who need a place to stay.  This is an extraordinary gesture by the hotel’s owners and management and I commend them for offering the facility for those on the front line of our battle against the coronavirus.  I also want to thank and wish our healthcare teams well in the huge challenge they are faced with. They are our bulwark and our spearhead in fighting this virus.”

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