During his week-long Presbytery of Newry tour, the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI), Rt Rev Dr John Kirkpatrick, has praised the work of health service staff. On a visit to Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry, he said, “they bring round the clock care and compassion to those in need, especially under increasingly difficult circumstances,” and commended the valuable ongoing work of the hospital’s chaplaincy service.
Dr Kirkpatrick’s visit to the hospital, which included meetings with senior medical staff and the hospital’s Presbyterian Chaplain, were part of a weeklong pastoral visit to one of the all-Ireland denomination’s 19 regional presbyteries, the Presbytery of Newry. Dr Kirkpatrick also visited the Southern Area Hospice Services in the city.
“There are many things that we have taken for granted in Northern Ireland over the years and the National Health Service is one of them. Having been battered by Covid, the NHS in recent years has also experienced significant additional pressures, all of which have taken its toll on staff and have impacted the care that can be provided. Today I also heard of some those pressures first-hand and the disquiet felt over local plans for Daisy Hill itself,” Dr Kirkpatrick said.
“Having said that, I want to pay a genuine and heart-felt tribute on behalf of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, and say ‘thank you’, to everyone who brings round the clock care and compassion to those in need, especially under increasingly difficult circumstances.”
Accompanied by his wife Joan, during his time at Daisy Hill Dr Kirkpatrick was shown the Accident and Emergency Department and met with Grace Hamilton, Assistant Director of Nursing, Patient Safety, Quality & Experience, Charlotte Anne Wills, Assistant Director Medicine & Unscheduled Care and Anita Carroll, Assistant Director Functional Support Services. The Moderator also spent time with the Presbyterian Chaplain, Rev Keith McIntyre, who is the minister of Bessbrook Presbyterian Church and the Moderator of the Presbytery of Newry, Rev Stuart Finlay.
Dr Kirkpatrick continued, “As a pastor one of the important roles that we have is calling on members of our congregations who find themselves in hospital, to see how they are, and to pray with them. The spiritual welfare of those in hospital is also important and as our healthcare professionals take care of their physical needs, I also want to pay tribute to those who look after their spiritual welfare, the hospital chaplains. Playing a critical role in the life of the hospital and staff, patients and their families, I wanted to take time today to acknowledge that.”
The chaplaincy team at Daisy Hill Hospital comprises priests and ministers from the local Roman Catholic Church, Church of Ireland, Methodist Church and Presbyterian Church in Ireland. PCI’s chaplain, Rev Keith McIntyre, who has been in the role for around eight years, said that they would work closely together. “There is good support for the chaplaincy team at Daisy Hill, although of course not every patient says that they would like to see a chaplain. Those that do receive visits from their denominational chaplain during their time in hospital and very much appreciate the pastoral care provided,” he said.
“It can be quite a challenging role as you could be supporting someone who has experienced, for example, considerable trauma as a result of an accident, or delirium due to an infection, to someone who is quietly coming to terms with their own mortality. To have a loved one who is very ill, or coming to the end of their life, is also traumatic, so we are not just there for our patients, but for their families as well.”
Mr McIntyre concluded by saying, “You don’t know who you will meet, or be praying with when you are in the hospital. By God’s grace, however, opportunities for conversations are opened up, leading so very often to wonderful opportunities to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ and see people thinking in ways that they haven’t before. It is a real privilege to minister in this way,” he said.
Stretching from Annalong in the east, through the Kingdom of Mourne to Newry city, the Presbytery of Newry extends west to Markethill, and into South Armagh, taking in 23 congregations in total, two of them falling just south of the border in County Monaghan. During his weeklong tour (5-12 March) Dr Kirkpatrick met with local ministers for fellowship, prayer and Bible study, visited farmers and members of the local fishing community, schools and members of the Police Service. He also preached each Sunday in four separate congregations and at mid-week services.
Following the Moderator’s visit to Daisy Hill Hospital, he also visited the Southern Area Hospice Services at St John’s House in Newry, where he met senior staff who are part the multidisciplinary team there and the Chaplain, Rev Derek Dunn. Dr Kirkpatrick said of his visit, “In our family the hospice movement is very close to our hearts as my wife Joan was for many years a Hospice at Home Nurse for the Northern Ireland Hospice in Belfast.
“Providing compassionate, end of life care is such an important part, and often an underestimated part, of our health and social care system. The extent of the blessing that Southern Area Hospice Services continues to be to so many families in the Southern Trust area can never be fully known. We owe a special debt of gratitude to everyone working in the caring professions, not least those who work and volunteer in the hospice movement. I want to pay tribute to them, which is why it was important for me to thank those who care for us throughout our lives, and at life’s end. They are certainly deserving of our prayers,” he said.
Click here for more PCI news on their website.