A 50-bed specialist stroke unit is on the way for Craigavon Area Hospital – and it will mean the closure of the smaller units at Lurgan, Newry, Dungannon and the existing one at Craigavon.
The chief executive of the Southern Health and Social Care Trust Mairead McAlinden told the borough council mid-monthly meeteing on Monday night that work was due to start next spring and that it would be functional for the 2016-17 financial year.
Ms McAlinden and her fellow officers were presenting their annual report to the council, and the stroke unit was the main component. She underlined that the new unit would afford 24/7 care to stroke victims.
The trust admitted that the current four-centre set-up created difficulties at the weekend in the administration of various therapies – some simply were not available on a non-stop basis.
Precious time could be lost in delivering this service over a three-day period, and if therapies were available on a 24/7 basis, the outcome for the patient could be more positive, “affecting the rest of their lives”.
Ms McAlinden said that the public consultation period would end in November and the project would then go to the design stage.
The council was told that the latest evidence from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence and from the Royal College of Physicians showed that early treatment and rapid access to specialist stroke units improved survival and recovery rates, and that expert care available seven days a week led to better patient outcomes.
Councillor Carla Lockhart asked about the future for Lurgan Hospital, “which is a vital part of the town”.
Ms McAlinden stressed that Lurgan Hospital would play an increasing role in the trust’s care-in-the-community plans – especially in the increasing instances of dementia.