Stroke services could be axed from Daisy Hill Hospital as part of the latest exercise to consolidate health services.
But a new hyperacute stroke unit would be established at Craigavon Area Hospital as part of the process.
Six options have been put forward as part of a radical shake up on stroke services.
All feature Craigavon as being central to future plans but Daisy Hill is not considered under any of the options going out to public consultation.
And that could mean longer travel times for patients living in the south Armagh and Newry area.
The consultation document explains the rationale.
It states: “Stroke is a major health issue in NI with around 2,800 people being admitted to a hospital each year and 36,000 stroke survivors living in our communities.
“It is important that every opportunity is taken to secure excellent care for people after a stroke and give them the
best possible chance of a good recovery.
“Services across NI have been improving in recent years, but there is still significant variation across sites in terms of the time patients are seen and the treatment they access.
“The evidence is clear that we need to organise stroke services to give patients with acute stroke the best possible chance wherever they are in NI. It is unacceptable that the stroke treatment people receive – including access to brain scans and the clot busting drug thrombolysis – should vary according to where they live.”
Currently, services are spread across 11 hospital sites.
According to the options tabled, the Department of Health will suggest several configurations which could include up to five hospitals, which will house the specialised hyper-acute stroke units.
Should the consolidation process go-ahead, it will mean some staff will have to relocate from Daisy Hill.
Permanent Secretary Richard Pengelly said: “We have an exciting opportunity to change services for the better, protecting many more people from the devastating consequences of stroke.
“We can’t secure these improvements without reshaping current provision.
“Our hospital stroke services are currently too thinly spread. Too many units are struggling to maintain sustainable quality care and staffing levels.
“Establishing Hyperacute Stroke Units is vital to ensure we keep pace with advances in treatment and provide the best possible treatment.
“The principle of consolidating care is backed by stroke charities, expert research and the proven success of reforms introduced in London and Manchester.”
The consultation on Reshaping Stroke Care will run for 12 weeks. It follows a pre-consultation by the Health & Social Care Board and Public Health Agency in 2017. You can view the whole document here.