DOWN Councillor Cadogan Enright has made a protest to the NI Assembly Heath Committee on its first visit to the new Downe Hospital in Downpatrick. He issued committee members with a letter calling on a “fair chance” for the hospital to establish itself.The South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust has responded to Councillor Enright protest.

To: Assembly Health committee members.

“I attach a letter copied to me revealing new cuts at the Downe Hospital in cardiac testing – a vital facility for the people of this area.

“This is predicated on a management failure to recruit and train staff that will supposedly be remedied in 6 months time. What type of planning goes on across the Health Service in NI that leads to these repeated crises so often related to staffing issues?

“The letter justifies the Trust’s position on the basis that similar cut-backs occurred in Lisburn at the Lagan Valley Hospital with no issues. However, people in Lisburn have easy access to the City Hospital, Royal, Mater and Craigavon Hospitals with access via good roads.

“People in Killough, Ardglass and Strangford town have no such easy access to the Ulster Hospital which is much harder to reach. Even people in Newcastle and Downpatrick find the Ulster Hospital hard to reach and there is no public transport.

Jim Wells, chairman of the NI Assembly Health Committee receives a written protest from Councillor Cadogan Enright. Included, centre, is Barbara Haig, Green Party member.

“The letter talks about “Enhanced links with Ulster Cardiology…and Ulster Cardiologists” – this is symptomatic of the malaise in the Health Service in NI as a whole. How can consultants be linked to one hospital only? Why are they not conducting clinics at hospitals around NI? Why are they not described as “Trust Consultants?”

“Our local Downe Hospital is not being given a fair chance to establish itself, and is suffering from dozens of small cuts that cumulatively will create a crisis around numbers attending it as people are forced to attend other hospitals for services that should be available locally.

“Even the bus service to the new hospital fails to stop outside the hospital entrance, leaving sick and disabled people having to walk out of the hospital grounds or looking for taxis.

“Our community values the rapid access to the chest pain clinic so much so that when this service was launched in the Old Downe just a few years ago, it was the local community that paid for the equipment.

“The protection of local hospitals is fundamental to the Green Party Agenda. I will do everything in my power to protect and enhance the Downe, and I particularly call on local politicians on the Assembly Health committee to do the same.

“I call on the Assembly Health Committee to insist that the Downe be allowed to properly re-establish itself and commit itself to the support of local services in Downpatrick and elsewhere around NI,”

Signed, Councillor Cadogan Enright, Green Party 20th May 2010

(Downpatrick, Ardglass, Killough, Ballyhornan and Strangford Town).