WHILE the future of gynaecology services within the South West Acute Hospital appears to be secure for now, fresh fears have been raised about the overall retention of acute services in Enniskillen. Western Trust Chief Executive, Dr Anne Kilgallen met with a range of community groups and public representatives at the hospital on Friday where she announced radical plans for the future development of health and care services across Fermanagh.
This roadmap for the future involves a “partnership approach” which the Trust says will deliver better care experiences for patients and improved health outcomes. For the local population who have fought in recent years to retain key services including the neo-natal and stroke units, this will be another chance to have their say on the future of healthcare in this county. The Department of Health will sponsor this ‘Pathfinder initiative’ to identify their current and longterm health service needs.
The project will involve initiating a consultation and engagement process with medical professionals, stakeholders and the local community to develop proposals for delivering what the Trust calls “sustainable” health services. This model was used recently at Newry’s Daisy Hill Hospital which was at risk of losing its 24-hour emergency department (ED). Daisy Hill has the sixth busiest ED in all of the North but has had staffing problems and in June received £1.65 investment to help fund emergency care.
Dr Kilgallen said on Friday: “It is crucial that we engage the community itself, not simply in giving their views but also in understanding what health and well-being information is available to inform our current and future planning, and to work with us in partnership in a co-production way.” “This is a step on a journey and I do not expect there to be any immediate change. I hope that people will find that they have a real opportunity to shape a legacy for the next era of health and care in Fermanagh.” Donal O’Cofaigh, from Fermanagh Save our Services, says that while this move represents something of a stay of execution, many issues still remain unanswered. “Many services have been lost from SWAH recently which patients want to see returned. At our meeting on Friday, questions were asked of the Trust Chief Executive about a direct threat to the continued acute status of the hospital in Enniskillen but no assurances were provided.
Referring to the pathfinder initiative, he said: “If there is a genuine coproduction process where people are engaged and there’s honesty and transparency in the whole process with guarantees of no reduction in services but perhaps even an expansion, we would welcome that. But if this is a means to co-opt opposition so that the Trust can further reduce services and even the acute status of the hospital then that’s something that we would completely oppose.”
The Trust says it will engage with all stakeholders in the coming weeks and months and welcome input from all parties.