Stormont decisions could put lives at risk in Newry and Mourne

Posted: April 28, 2013 in Uncategorized

28/04/13

Decisions being implemented by Stormont regarding the health service could result in lives being put at risk in the Newry area.

According to éirígí An Iúir, the Stormont Executive’s dual process of cutting back on health service expenditure while simultaneously creating a greater role for the private sector will ultimately lead to the erosion of essential public services.

There is growing concern that the long-term future of many essential services provided at Daisy Hill hospital in Newry is being gradually eroded under the austerity programme being implemented by the parties in the Stormont Coalition. Let’s not forget that Stormont is in the process of implementing over four billion pounds of budget cuts to public services right across the north.

Recent revelations suggesting that Daisy Hill’s Stroke Unit may be closed with its services transferred twenty miles away to Craigavon Area Hospital is the latest example of how Stormont’s cuts could impact upon the people in the Newry and Mourne area.

These revelations are emerging at a time when Craigavon Hospital is clearly over-stretched with staff there already under immense pressure. In the past fortnight, Craigavon Hospital was closed to all admissions after running out of beds. Ambulances were ‘grounded’, the emergency department was working beyond capacity, and the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) was reported to be overflowing.

Such was the extent of the recent crisis that Craigavon was forced to institute a ‘temporary ambulance divert process’. This unacceptable situation is becoming more and more frequent within the major hospitals and Craigavon isn’t the only one to be affected. Similar crises have occurred at Antrim, the Causeway and in Belfast.

Transferring more services away from Newry to Craigavon will make an already bad situation even worse.

On top of this, Stormont’s creeping privatisation agenda is gathering momentum in other elements within the health service with the proposed closure of all five residential care homes with the Southern Health Trust area. Two of those are located in Bessbrook and Kilkeel. As result of these closures, residents will be left with no choice but to transfer to residential homes in the private sector where the priority will not be on maximising patient care but on maximising private profit.

Stormont’s privatisation agenda can also be seen in the recent announcement that the new ‘health hub’ for the Newry area will be built as a Third Party Development (3PD) – a new name for the already discredited private finance initiatives.

The fact that the Department of Health is unable to give a precise cost for using this route to finance the ‘health hub’ project should be a source of major concern to all those who want to protect public health services.

It is no secret that that by going down the 3PD/private finance route, the Department of Health is putting the needs of the private sector before the needs of the public. A number of public sector trade unions have made the point that private finance initiatives are a more costly way of providing public services and that where such initiatives increase in costs, cutbacks in clinical budgets are inevitable.

Once Stormont’s private finance initiatives start to impact on clinical budgets that is when lives will be put at risk.

 

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