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Patients’ anger at gruelling trek for care

FERMANAGH patients and their families are frequently having to take days off work to travel for several hours and hundreds of miles for health appointments that often take ten minutes.
Despite the fact the Western Trust has stated Altnagelvin consultants regularly hold clinics at the South West Acute Hospital in Enniskillen, the Herald has been inundated with patients contacting us to tell of their gruelling treks to the Derry hospital.
After a number of patients got in touch about having to travel to Altnagelvin for what they saw as routine appointments, the Herald posted on social media to determine if this was a common issue. The paper’s Facebook inbox was flooded with responses.
Bone breaks and fractures, dental work, tonsils as well as other ENT (ear, nose, throat) conditions, and gynaecological issues were among the most common health conditions local patients said they had to travel to have treated.
To put the distance they are travelling for in context, from Derrylin to Derry, for example, is a four hour, 140 mile round-trip.
Below are just a sample of what just some of those who got in touch had to say.
The Herald has chosen to keep all respondents’ identities anonymous, since they are speaking of their own or their families’ health issues.
“I had to take time off work. Such a long journey and nearly an hour wait for all of five minutes,” said one patient.
Another said when her daughter had to go for a scan, they both had to take a day off work.
“It’s just a shame that people have to bypass a new high spec hospital to drive the roads in the condition they are in to go to Altnagelvin,” said another.
“Taking unpaid time off work for an hour or two isn’t too big a deal, but having to take the whole day off to attend a 15 minutes appointment is a lot less appealing,” said another.
A lady who had her wisdom tooth removed at Altnagelvin said she had to travel up twice.
“It’s ridiculous having to make the four hour round trip for a five minute consultation,” said another.
“A whole day wasted for five minutes as well as fuel and parking cost.”
Several of those who got in touch about fracture and breaks said they initially were seen at SWAH, but thereafter had to travel to Altnagelvin for appointments.
It was generally accepted throughout the comments and messages that frontline staff, and the facilities, at SWAH were second to none.
When contacted about the issue by the Herald, a spokesman for the Western Trust said: “All services that were provided at the Erne Hospital are being delivered at the SWAH. Service delivery in some specialities have been further enhanced at the SWAH to the meet the needs of our patients and clients. Additional clinics include respiratory, cardiology, endocrinology , rheumatology and dermatology.”
They added: “Consultants from Altnagelvin Hospital hold weekly clinics in the SWAH.”

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The Fermanagh Herald is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
Registered in Northern Ireland, No. R0000576. 28 Belmore Street, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, BT74 6AA