The new head of the South West Acute Hospital says there are no suggestions that any services will be moved from Enniskillen at the present time.
Dr Ronan O’Hare was speaking to the Fermanagh Herald this week following his appointment as assistant medical director at SWAH and the Tyrone County Hospital.
The married father-of-four will be part of a team of three who will be financially accountable and have overall responsibility for the delivery of acute services to the 32,000 patients set to be treated in Enniskillen this year.
Dr O’Hare, a consultant in anaesthesia and intensive care medicine, was the lead clinician responsible for the transfer of patients from the Erne back in June 2012. He previously worked in Sligo General Hospital until he joined the Western Trust five years ago. Having worked both North and South, he feels that the Republic’s healthcare system “lags three or four years behind”.
“The system here is much more managed with much bigger structures above you but the standards of healthcare are just as good.”
After planning and executing the opening and transfer of patients to SWAH and closure of the old Erne Hospital, Dr O’Hare says the hospital continues to go from strength to strength.
“It was a challenge in relation to our resources and our ability to move to a brand new hospital just six weeks after getting the keys. We had to work with a fixed capacity but I knew that the staff could do it. It was a huge effort and everyone pulled together to make the transition. To my knowledge there has been no hospital since then that has done this type of move all at the one time.”
Four years on, Dr O’Hare believes that SWAH has been an investment in people.
“Patients always do come first and they are the biggest drivers for change. We are very lucky to have this superb facility. It is delivering what it is supposed to and has the infrastructure to do more. We have just employed three consultant cardiologists and another emergency department consultant. There are other plans in the future for more services and an increased capacity but all of this is under continued discussion. The hospital is going from strength to strength and with a £658,000 investment from the Department of Health into the re-design of the emergency department, this shows what commitment there is.
“Deliberations are also ongoing about the creation of a regional trauma network and we would be well-placed here to become a trauma unit.”
Addressing increased concerns over the possible shift of services away from SWAH to other areas like Altnagelvin, he said:
“Patients have to realise that the Western Trust has put huge investment into providing a very high quality service and they will endeavor to continue doing that. This hospital remains acute for now and nothing has come across my desk so far suggesting the removal of any services from here – quite the opposite in fact.
“You send patients where they will have the best quality of care and there are certain services that you have to have in higher population areas such as cardiac, thoracic or neuro surgery. That’s where patients should be treated but there is certainly no shifting of services towards Altnagelvin.”
With Fermanagh set to have proportionately more pensioners than any other part of the North within the next decade, fears have been expressed over how the county’s elderly population will be properly cared for in the future.
Dr O’Hare says plans are already afoot to deal with this with advances such as virtual clincis dealing with patients at home and then putting a plan in place to treat them.
“Hospitals need to turn around and face outwards into the community and going into the future with these increasing age populations, they are going to have to assist and manage chronic illnesses in the community. Patients will need to be repatriated back to their own homes much earlier and with increased advances in medicine and technology you can now reliably deliver the necessary care at home,” he added.
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