The £7m health cuts are already being felt in Fermanagh with no beds available in the South West Acute Hospital on Monday morning, despite a private ward with 24 beds lying vacant.
Deputy chief executive Joe Lusby, who has over 40 years of experience in local health has described the situation as ‘the worst’ he has ever seen and issued a plea for greater resources for the west of Northern Ireland.
“It is the worst, it is the most challenging. The cuts in relation to the £7m are already being felt across the service in the west.”
Mr Lusby highlighted the cuts of over £500,000 in domiciliary (home) care and the impact they are already having on the service available in at the South West Acute Hospital.
“As an example today (Monday) in the hospital we are sitting here with 16 delayed discharges between here and Omagh. People who are medically fit for discharge from an acute hospital setting, but require a package of care to support them in their own home and the money is just not there to do that.
“Sixteen people delayed from getting out of an acute hospital is almost the size of a ward. So we have a ward full of people we’re not able to get out of the system and at 8.30am this morning we had no beds this morning in the hospital. Medical was full, surgical was full, radiology was full. We’re reliant on ward rounds at 10am this morning to try and free up people that we can get out who don’t require expensive packages.
That obviously puts more pressure on the system. It’s not the right way to go, it’s not the right way any of us want to go, but we have got to live with the resources that we have to save £7m.”
The accident and emergency department is also feeling the heat according to Mr Lusby.
“Our emergency department here is the best performing emergency department in Northern Ireland. The situation now is, that as a result of the curtailment of domiciliary care people can’t get the care in the community, so we can’t get people out of the hospital, there are no beds throughout the hospital, but people are still coming into the hospital. They are going to wait longer in the emergency department as we can’t get them into the body of the hospital.”
He continued: “Everybody has marched to the top of the hill, to put their shoulder to the wheel, to improve the service, to give a better responsiveness to patients and clients and these cuts will have an impact on our ability to do that, there is no question of that.”
Mr Lusby believes the future of the South West Acute Hospital however is secure, but admitted there is likely to be no letup in terms of cuts to services.
“The health minister is already on record saying that 2015/16 is going to be worse, it’s going to be more difficult. It’s going to be more difficult in terms of financial pressures.
“If there aren’t additional resources coming into the system the minister is indicating that next year looks to be even more challenging.
“These are real challenges and there is no question we need additional resources in the west and if we don’t get them we’re back to looking back to things like this; further cuts in future years. But I would be hopeful if the work is done across Northern Ireland in reviewing the entire system that we should see additional resources being invested in this part of the world.”
The deputy chief also ruled out the possibility of using the private ward vacated by company 3fivetwo to help resolve the problem of bed shortages.
“The Health and Social Care Board paused all of the spend in terms of the independent sector and that hasn’t been lifted yet. Now that means the people on the waiting list for 3fivetwo will transfer back into the trust. We will do a re-prioritisation in terms of their needs and those with less acute needs will wait longer so there is no doubt waiting lists will grow.”
In spite of the pressures facing those at the South West Acute Hospital Mr Lusby has maintained the patient will always come first.
“The position for us is we’re saying is where the choice is between keeping people safe and overspending then we will keep people safe.”
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