THE Western Trust has denied claims that another service at the South West Acute Hospital is at risk of closure, but has revealed that the hospital is having difficulty recruiting staff for the maternity ward.
The Herald had been approached by a number of sources this week suggesting that the Gynaecology and Obstetrics services, which are part of the Maternity department, was at risk of closure. This has been refuted by the Trust.
Gynaecology services deals with conditions and diseases specific to women and girls while Obstetric services specialise in pregnancy and childbirth-related treatment.
The Trust is currently experiencing issues with recruiting staff members and it recently sought 19 trainee doctors – 12 of those required in the Gynaecology ward but these positions have not been filled leading to concerns about the provision of the services.
Donal O’Cofaigh from Fermanagh Save our Services believes this is hugely concerning for the local community.
“We need further assurances from the Western Trust that the staff shortages will not impact the services that are provided in Enniskillen. If we were to lose maternity services it would greatly impact on the sustainability of anaesthetics, and by extension, stroke services and A&E.
“We cannot expect women to travel to access these services, and if there is a genuine threat to services, there will need to be a campaign to protect them,” he said.
One local gynaecology patient who suffers from endometrisosis has already been travelling to Strabane to access appropriate care which is not available locally.
Speaking to the Herald, she explained “I have been a Gynaecology patients for the past 20 years and there is no endometrisosis specialist in SWAH.
“There is a doctor in Derry and Belfast so she comes to Strabane for appointments which cuts the travel a bit, but it is still a full day off work for an appointment that will take 10 minutes. I would love to be able to go to SWAH but I cannot access the services I need there.”
This isn’t the first time that maternity related services have came under threat at the hospital as in September last year, cost-cutting proposals suggested the closure of the Neo-natal unit at SWAH but a prompt U-turn was made on the decision.
DUP Councillor Raymond Farrell believes that all health services must be maintained in the hospital for the people of Fermanagh,
“Maternity services are vital and must be provided in the local area. It is particularly worrying for services users and their families, and the closure of this ward would be a further assault on the South West region.”
A Western Trust spokesman said yesterday (Tuesday) that no changes are being made to maternity services, which includes Gynaecology and Obstetrics services.
“The Western Trust is not planning to make any changes to the maternity services at the South West Acute Hospital. The Trust can confirm that it has been experiencing some recruitment and retention challenges with medical staff in maternity services at the South West Acute Hospital. However, we are doing everything possible to ensure the services continue in a safe and sustainable manner,” the Trust said in a statement.