HEALTH chiefs have defended their commitment to Dromore patients amid concerns over the redeployment to Banbridge of a senior district nurse.

A Southern Health and Social Care Trust spokesman said the temporary move, to provide maternity cover, did not impact on its routine provision of equal access to services across the Trust area; staff responded to needs throughout that area as required.

One local woman, however, said the move to Banbridge, without replacement, of what she called the Dromore-based district nursing sister, had left her remaining colleagues, who otherwise provided a "marvellous" service, struggling to cope and unable to properly help patients in their homes.

Mrs. Lisa Saunders said she wanted to know if someone had to die a painful death before the Trust plugged what she insisted was an unacceptable gap in the town's district nursing team.

"The sister was moved to Banbridge and there's been no replacement for Dromore," she said. "The district nurses can't cope as a result and as far as I can see that means not everyone who needs their help will get it."

Mrs. Saunders said the nurses were responsible for assessing people for care in the community, with the local sister previously responsible for all the carers in the area.

That being the case, she asked, how could people receive the correct care at home in her absence?

"The nurses can't cope," she said. "Do we have to wait until someone dies in pain before the situation is rectified?"

Mrs. Saunders said too that hospital patients requiring help at home couldn't be discharged until a suitable homecare package, as determined by the district nurses, was in place.

The loss of the sister, therefore, could well mean delays in people being discharged from hospital, she said.

The Trust, meanwhile, insisted it delivered a highly professional service to many people in clinic settings and to some housebound patients living within their own homes in the community.

"This service supports hospital discharge and helps to sustain people living within the community," the spokesman said. "Once a person has been assessed as having an identified need, which requires a District Nursing input, patients are prioritised and seen.

"The Southern Trust provides equal access to services across the Trust area and this means that staff respond to patient needs across the Trust as required.

"This flexibility ensures that those patients with the most critical assessed needs receive the services their clinical condition requires."