A DELEGATION of Sinn Fein representatives have handed over a petition outlining concerns about the under threat Loane House in Dungannon, to the Chief Executive of the Southern Health Trust.
A public consultation on proposed changes to hospital care for older people ends in October, but health campaigners in Dungannon fear the decision may already have been set in stone for Loane House at South Tyrone Hospital.
If the unit is closed, around 100 jobs may be at risk, while vital rehabilitation services to elderly and vulnerable patients could be lost to Dungannon.
Last week, MP Michelle Gildernew, Bronwyn McGahan MLA and Councillor Deirdre Varsani, presented Mairead McAlinden, Health Trust Chief, with a petition detailing their concerns.
Afterwards, Ms McAlinden met with members of the South Tyrone Community Forum and local elected representatives to discuss the proposed changes.
Speaking after the meeting, Ms McAlinden said she fully understands the concerns raised to her.
““Local elected representatives and the Community Forum members have voiced to me their strong concerns about these proposals”, explained the health chief.
“They are concerned about issues such as local access, removal of services from South Tyrone and the inconvenience of extra travel for family members.
“I fully understand these concerns and I will take them to my Trust Board in November when the consultation ends. I would be happy to hear any other views from the local community on our proposals. “We aim to deliver care in a way that provides the best possible quality of care to the people living in the Southern Trust and beyond, and make the best use of public funds. These proposals set out our plans for the future of hospital services for older people and the reasons why we think they are the right thing to do.”
Ms McAlinden said that, while patients can receive “rapid access” to diagnostic and expert clinical services at the two main acute hospitals, Craigavon and Newry, that level of care would be “impossible to duplicate” at the smaller units, including Dungannon.
Ms McAlinden added: “The staff in these units provide excellent care but the needs of patients using these units are now much more complex. Increasingly patients require transfer to larger units for timely access to treatment and care if their condition causes concern.
“Our proposals set out a plan that will ensure the right model of care, in the right place and delivered by the right people.”