The DGH will lose two vital services but keep stroke care if recommendations due to be announced on Thursday are approved.
East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust will reveal its preferred locations for the three under-threat departments at a meeting in nearby Little Common and the Gazette has learnt that two of the three will be centralised in Hastings.
And although the stroke care will be earmarked for Eastbourne, both general surgery and orthopaedics will be going to the Conquest if the Trust’s management gets its way.
This would mean thousands of patients in Eastbourne and the surrounding area having to travel along the coast for treatment and the team behind the Save the DGH drive believe such a move could kick-start the gradual downgrading of the Kings Drive hospital.
The Trust maintains the controversial changes are being introduced as a way of actually improving standards and says its decision will reflect the results of a widespread public consultation carried out earlier this year.
Its preferred options, if backed on Thursday, will be passed up the line to NHS Sussex for approval at a meeting on November 23.
Campaigner Liz Walke said, “Core services are absolutely vital to be kept at both hospitals. The congestion between the two is notoriously bad and these journeys would be made in an emergency. It’s too terrible to contemplate.
“It is likely that it will go ahead but needless to say we will fight this. We have no alternative. This will be catastrophic and not just for Eastbourne.”
Ms Walke promised to keep fighting the unpopular plans and, together with Eastbourne MP Stephen Lloyd, take the matter all the way to health minister Jeremy Hunt if necessary.
Mr Lloyd has already secured a top level meeting with the Conservative secretary of state, scheduled for after Thursday’s meeting, with the Save the DGH team looking to keep their powder dry before mounting full-scale opposition.
But after hearing what the Trust has in mind, the Lib Dem said, “I am absolutely horrified that the Trust’s board of directors are proposing to remove orthopaedics and general surgery from Eastbourne.
“I will continue to fight these plans tooth and nail. The Government have stated clearly that changes to healthcare provision must be led by local clinicians and the public – and yet these proposals are being strongly opposed by both.
“The domino effect of this would mean that within a few years the DGH would not be a fully fledged acute hospital.
“Single siting orthopaedics in Hastings seems a strange decision. The DGH has a really strong orthopaedics department and we also have more older people.
“It just does not make sense.”
If, as expected, the Trust’s agrees on the plans this Thursday there are two more hurdles it must clear before the proposals can be put into motion.
Firstly, the plans need to be cleared by the area’s health commissioner on November 23 and then the plans will be looked at by the East Sussex Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) on December 13 at County Hall in Lewes.
And Mr Lloyd believes it is at that December date that campaigners could yet win through.
He said, “Our best chance of stopping these plans in their tracks is to convince the councillors on the East Sussex HOSC that they must refer the plans to the secretary of state, and I, along with the cross-party Save the DGH campaign team, will be concentrating all our efforts over the coming weeks to ensuring this happens.”