Lochside Garage

Health chief’s starkest warning yet on future of SWAH

IN THE clearest indication yet that services at South West Acute Hospital may need to be cut the second most senior executive of the Western Trust has warned that the hospital faces difficulties in ‘maintaining current services on a stable footing’.
In an unusually forthright statement on the future of SWAH, deputy chief executive Kieran Downey pulled no punches, saying that it would be increasingly difficult to keep services at the hospital and admitting that the hospital is struggling to recruit staff.
Over the past year there has been growing public concern that the state-of-the art hospital, which was completed in June 2012 at a reported cost of over £700m will lose key services, including its stroke unit. The hospital has also been dogged by staffing problems, although recently the Trust insisted that ‘number of temporary and/or fixed term contracts have been put in place in recent months.’
The stark warning comes from Kieran Downey, deputy chief executive of the Western Trust who has been appointed as the new lead of the Pathfinder Project for SWAH.
In a concerning letter Mr Downey addresses the future of SWAH saying, “Many of our services are facing pressures and challenges that are only going to intensify.
“We have ongoing and serious difficulties recruiting and retaining staff.
“Unless we do some things differently, it will be increasingly difficult to maintain all current services on a stable and sustainable footing.”
The letter was part of an update on the Pathfinder Project which was discussed at a Council meeting of the Community, Planning, Strategic Partnership Board, and addressed to the chief executive of the Council, Brendan Hegarty. The Pathfinder initiative was introduced in July 2018, sponsored by the Department of Health and is similar to the approach at Daisy Hill Hospital, Newry.
In August, the Herald reported that Western Trust chief executive, Dr Anne Kilgallen announced radical plans for the future development of health and care services across Fermanagh, while previously the Western Trust reported that they were experiencing staffing shortages particularly in maternity services.
In the concerning letter Mr Downey explains, “We see Pathfinder as creating a whole new ‘conversation’ about South West Acute Hospital. It means taking a detailed honest look at what we’re doing and whether we can do it better.”
“We’re asking what needs to happen to ensure current and future needs of the community are properly met. As the name suggests, Pathfinder is about finding the best route forward.”
The letter also outlines the plans for intensive face-to-face engagement with the all the community on the way forward. This engagement will involve staff, elected representatives, action groups, community groups, patients and carers.
Mr Downey added, ‘we are now in the early stages of our planning,’ and ‘with the PHA, we will then undertake a population health needs analysis to further inform our thinking.’


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