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Daisy Hill on ‘brink of collapse’ as MLA calls for Southern Trust CEO to resign

Justin McNulty and Dr Maria O'Kane
Justin McNulty (pictured) says the CEO, Dr Maria O'Kane (also pictured), should consider her position

Daisy Hill Hospital is on the “brink of collapse” and the Southern Trust’s Chief Executive should “consider her position”.

Those are the strong words of SDLP MLA Justin McNulty who has held no punches in hitting out at the Trust’s head, Dr Maria O’Kane, over the resignation of two of the Newry Hospital’s last remaining stroke consultants.

“The decision by the last two remaining stroke consultants to resign from Daisy Hill Hospital must now force the Chief Executive of the Trust to consider her position,” said Mr McNulty.

“This is a red flag that must be heeded. It cannot be acceptable in the 21st century that a city the size of Newry, with all of South Armagh and South Down, does not have a stroke specialist in our hospital.”

Mr McNulty has called for immediate action from the Southern Trust and the Department of Health to “pull Daisy Hill back from the brink of collapse”.

The Newry & Armagh MLA was speaking after “well-placed sources at Daisy Hill Hospital have spoken of their grave concerns the hospital is on the brink of collapse”.

He said staff at the hospital have revealed that the last remaining stroke consultants at Daisy Hill resigned on Friday.

Mr McNulty claimed staff have spoken of their despair, saying they have been “left in the lurch” and “management have done nothing” to address the crisis, and that “a few consultants have remained at the hospital based on good will and a commitment to duty” but that no one wants to be the “last man standing”.

He added: “Senior clinicians at Daisy Hill have said that all gastroenterologists have resigned, the respiratory ward has now been closed, and that the medical rota at the hospital has basically collapsed.

“Staff including senior clinicians at Daisy Hill Hospital have reached out to me in a state of despair. It is their view that the hospital is collapsing down around their ears, and Trust management are watching the chaos with their arms folded.

“The Department of Health and the Southern Trust sat in a public meeting just over a month ago and told a room full of local people that “things have never looked so good for Daisy Hill.” Either they don’t have a clue what is happening on the ground at the hospital, or they were deliberately misleading us – either way, they’re not up to the job.

“I have repeatedly asked for the implementation of an ambitious long-term plan for the future of Daisy Hill. To date, that plan has not been forthcoming. It is on that basis that I am now calling for the resignation of the Chief Executive of the Southern Trust. With Daisy Hill in such dire straits, and brutal mismanagement by the Trust contributing to that collapse, the position of their Chief Executive is no longer tenable.”

Sinn Fein MP Mickey Brady said the news that a number of medical staff have left Daisy Hill Hospital is “deeply concerning”.

The Newry and Armagh MP said: “More concerning is the claim that one of the reasons behind these exits is that doctors feel they do not have proper supports in place to carry out their work safely.

“We will be requesting an urgent meeting with the Southern Trust to find out what they are doing to not only recruit sufficient staff into Daisy Hill but to retain them as well.

“We acknowledge the very real challenges facing the Trust amid savage Tory cuts. However the Trust must ensure that staffing levels are maintained to a proper level to ensure doctors can treat patients safely and with confidence.

“The difficulties in recruiting people to work and to stay in our health service, is one of the very real consequences forced upon us by 12 years of Tory cuts to public services.

“One party’s refusal to form an Executive has blocked a three-year budget and further investment in the health service to hire more doctors and nurses. This collapse of the Executive has left health workers and health and social care services at the mercy of cruel Tory cuts.

“We need an Executive formed now and all parties working together with a local health minister to prioritise health and fix the problems.”

A spokesperson for the Southern Trust said: “The shortage of medical staff is very challenging throughout health and social care, nationally, regionally and in the Southern Trust, across all of our hospitals.

“Recruiting and retaining enough medical staff has been a significant issue in Daisy Hill Hospital in recent years but the pressures have escalated recently with a number of medical staff ending their tenure at the hospital.

“The regional and international shortage of consultants, difficulties recruiting middle grade and junior doctors and the serious over-reliance on locum doctors are matters of great concern in meeting the increasing demands for acute medicine and providing stable medical staffing cover in our medical wards.

“The medical team and senior Trust management team continue to look at every viable option to address these serious ongoing challenges and stabilise our workforce in Daisy Hill and our other hospitals. The Trust is also working closely with the Department of Health and other regional colleagues on this urgent situation.

“We are very proud of the high quality care that continues to be provided to our patients by our very dedicated medical staff in all our hospitals.  We thank them and all our staff for their hard work and dedication to caring for our patients at this very challenging time.”

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