Plans to move emergency surgery from Daisy Hill Hospital to Craigavon must be abandoned, a woman who received life-saving surgery at the hospital has said.
Ann O’Brien, 61, was brought to the hospital with a ruptured stomach and bowel in 2019.
The hospital in Newry is just five minutes from her home.
Mrs O’Brien said her husband was told she “wouldn’t have made it” had she travelled to Craigavon Area Hospital.
The Southern Health Trust has announced moving emergency surgery to Craigavon was temporary, and a result of not having enough surgeons at Daisy Hill.
The Royal College of Surgeons said the issue highlighted that it is not about where life-saving surgery takes place – but rather who is carrying it out.
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“When you are extremely sick you want to be operated on by surgeons who operate every day and not by someone who does it occasionally,” said consultant surgeon Mark Taylor.
Mr Taylor said the ongoing debacle over Daisy Hill highlighted the need for a public conversation about transformation in order to provide safe hospital services.
As highlighted in several expert health reports, staffing across many specialities is stretched as services are duplicated both between and within health trusts.
But Mrs O’Brien said the move was “disgraceful”, and that lives would be lost as a result.
Mark Taylor said that with waiting lists “soaring”, why would they want to close hospitals or lose hospital beds when the need for services was growing?
“We just need to do things differently,” he told BBC News NI.
The health think tank, Nuffield Trust, has carried out several reports on the local health service.
Its head of public affairs, Mark Dayan, said services being spread too thinly had “probably contributed to the very bad hospital waiting times it suffers from.”
Mr Dayan added: “It’s probably not doing any favours to people’s clinical outcomes for the most serious killer diseases.”