Published Monday, 23 December 2013
Accident and Emergency Department hours are set to be cut, the trust confirmed. (© UTV)
The South Eastern Trust confirmed on Monday that A&E hours at the Downe Hospital in Downpatrick and Lagan Valley Hospital in Lisburn will be cut from 4 January.
A statement said: "Both emergency departments will be closed on Saturday and Sunday until further notice and will operate from 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday.
"This represents no change to the Lagan Valley week day hours, while the Downe ED will close at 8pm instead of 10pm on weekdays."
The trust said it "regrets" the changes but explained that they are being made due to a "critical" shortage of suitably qualified emergency medicine doctors.
It said patients who require emergency care, especially sudden and acute illness or severe trauma, should go to the Ulster Hospital in Dundonald, or their nearest hospital.
A statement went on: "The trust is clear that there is no better alternative to these changes at this time and has taken this action because we are determined to retain as much access as possible to emergency care services for local people, at their local hospital by compressing opening hours.
"We will be working with the Health and Social Care Board and others to put alternative arrangements in place to address this difficulty as soon as possible."
South Down MP Margaret Ritchie has asked Health Minister Edwin Poots to intervene after the announcement.
"There must now be direct ministerial intervention to ensure the on-going continuation of services at the Downe Hospital," the SDLP representative said.
"Admissions to the wards of the Downe must be secured and the doors must be kept open. The people of south Downe fought long and hard over a 30 year period for the new hospital and services. We cannot lose out now.
"The trust must come forward now with a plan on how to restore the seven day service as a matter of urgency."
© UTV News