Temporary Changes to Downe Hospital Services to support COVID-19

26th March 2020
Covid Update

As we prepare for what will be the biggest challenge we have ever faced, the Trust needs to reshape its hospitals and other services on a temporary basis. This will maximise our ability to manage the surge in demand for services due to COVID-19.

Each of our hospitals and services in the South Eastern Trust has a vital role to play in the fight against COVID-19.  We must now make changes to some services in all of our hospitals to prepare for the additional critical care services needed, and to achieve the best possible outcomes for our patients.

We must deploy our staff and resources to best position us to provide the critical care which will be required for our local populations, and to give our staff the essential training they need in order to equip them as much as possible for the challenge ahead.

The Trust needs to ensure that our staff can be as prepared as possible to help fight the impact of COVID-19. Retraction of the most acute services from some sites, in a planned manner, is the best way to support our entire patient population and gives our staff the best chance to prepare for and manage the challenges and pressures upon us.

The Downe Hospital will play a vital role as part of the hospital network in responding to this crisis, particularly through the provision of inpatient services and through working alongside primary care to enable as many patients as possible to be cared for at home.

Service Closures in the Downe Hospital:

The following services will temporarily close from 8am on Monday 30th March:

  • The Emergency Department (ED)
  • Minor Injuries Unit (MIU)
  • Day Procedure Unit (DPU) – routine and urgent day surgery and endoscopy services
  • Outpatients department

Services which remain open in the Downe Hospital:

  • All inpatient wards, also supported by the Enhanced Care at Home service and the Frail Elderly Assessment Services
  • Downe Midwifery Led Unit will continue to provide community midwifery services, though not birthing
  • The GP Out of Hours service will continue to provide services as normal, with the same ability to admit patients. This will need to be regularly reviewed as GP services in their entirety come under increasing pressure
  • Acute Mental Health and Psychiatry of Old Age inpatients

 What to do if you are unwell

During these temporary changes, the community is asked to:

  • Contact your GP if you are unwell
  • If you are seriously ill, attend the Emergency Department at the Ulster Hospital, Dundonald
  • In an emergency, contact the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service by dialling 999

Any patients with an outpatient appointment in the Downe Hospital next week will be contacted directly in the coming days.

This situation is rapidly changing and our plans will need to continue to be flexible. Further changes across all our hospitals and community services will no doubt be required to ensure we provide as robust a response as possible in managing this crisis situation. We believe it is imperative to respond now to provide our local community with the best possible outcomes and also to support our staff in being as prepared as they possibly can.

The Trust has agreed this position with our Medical and Nursing leadership teams, and it is supported by the Department of Health and Health and Social Care Board colleagues. We are continuing to communicate with,and support, staff impacted by these changes, and we are extremely grateful for their support and commitment.

The Trust recognises the importance and value of all our sites and services  within our communities. The Trust would like to assure the community that changes made over the coming weeks and months are solely part of the effort to meet and manage the challenges presented by COVID-19, the scale of which we have never faced before.  All service changes will continue to be reviewed and monitored, with the intention to fully restore services to normal as soon as possible.

The Trust would also like to thank our elected and community representatives, partner organisations and the public for their continued understanding and for the support and appreciation offered to our amazing colleagues as we work to protect and care for the lives of our population.

Every one of us has a role to play in the fight against coronavirus. We urge the public to help us protect themselves and others by staying at home and following all advice.

We ask for everyone’s commitment and support during these most difficult times.