THE Department of Health must guarantee, in writing, that radiology services in Fermanagh will be protected in future.
That was the clear message to emerge from a public consultation meeting on the future of medical imaging held at Fermanagh House on Monday night. Around 100 people attended the meeting, as well as a panel of clinicians from both the Department of Health and SWAH, including paediatrician Dr Raymond Nethercott and radiologist Dr Gareth Loughrey.
During the meeting, which became heated at times, the Fermanagh public raised a wide range of concerns with the Department.
These included fears over the privatisation of services, the ambiguity of language used in the current departmental review into medical imaging services, and, most of all, concerns that Fermanagh’s rurally isolated location could mean the loss of even more services locally.
Alistair Campbell, director of secondary care at the Department, moved to reassure those in attendance that the current review was about investment in radiology and recruiting more, not cuts, and said “the whole point of the review is to keep people safe.”
For example, it was explained the much feared “hub and spoke” model that has been proposed for radiology in the current review, and the assertion not all acute hospitals could retain their 24 hour service, would only apply to specialised radiology, and there would only be one hub in Belfast, with ‘spokes’ everywhere else.
Donal O’Cofaigh, from Unite and Fermanagh Save Our Services, explained to the panel “everyone in Fermanagh was concerned” about health reviews, stating: “We’ve lost service after service and we’ve seen attacks on our services in the past six months.”
“Our concerns are not falling from the sky,” he said, urging the panel to “put into black and white” in the final review document that services in Fermanagh, with its unique rural geography, were protected.
Dr Nethercott, who spoke passionately at November’s massive public meeting at the Lakeland Forum on the future of neonatal services, said: “When there was a threat to the neo-natal unit I was first up there saying this isn’t right, this can’t happen.
“What people was on board and listened to. We are listening to the public. I live here, my family live here. I will fight for our services and will continue to do so.”
The Department, who said they were “happy with the positive discussion,” said they would be taking all views on board.
Speaking following the public consultation meeting on Monday night, into the future of medical imaging, many of those in attendance said they had been reassured by what they had heard from the Department panel. However, many people again reiterated the call for the final review to enshrine protection for Fermanagh’s radiology services.
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