SWAH may lose day surgeries to specialist centres

PLANS are currently in motion that could see a swathe of different day surgeries taken out of SWAH, resulting in local patients having to travel to specialist centres instead. 
Already many Fermanagh patients have had their cataract surgeries moved to Magherafelt as part of the Department of Health’s Elective Care Plan. 
Similarly, all varicose vein surgery in the North has now been moved to two centres at Lagan Valley Hospital and the Omagh Hospital. 
While both the new cataract and varicose vein centres have been described by the Department as “prototypes”, they have said they are essentially being used as test centres ahead of its full scale plan to “transfer all appropriate day cases to regional elective care centres. 
“This will be subject to public consultation and will be informed by an evaluation of the prototypes,” said a Department spokesperson. 
The types of surgery the Department deems to be “appropriate” to be centralised includes a range of specialities, many of which current take place at SWAH, including  general surgery, urology, ophthalmology, ENT (ear, nose and throat), gynaecology, orthopaedics and other relatively low volume specialities.
Cllr Adam Gannon said while in theory the specialist centres may reduce waiting lists in the long run, in practice it may be the people of Fermanagh who lose out most with the changes. 
“Generally speaking, specialised centres could be a good thing, but as we know all too well in Fermanagh, we are the forgotten county,” he said. 
“We’re quite often ignored, and basically discriminated against because of our rural location. We’re left without access to key medical services. It is a long old road up to Belfast or Mid Ulster. Even the road to Omagh can be long enough for many people in Fermanagh.” 
Cllr Gannon added, “If they are making changes they would have to have one or two [centres] in SWAH, especially in view of how much they have spent on it. 
Removing all the services from a three-quarters-of-a-billion-pound hospital. How much of a waste of public money would that be?
“There would have to be investigations into that if they just built it and spent all that money and then removed all the services.”

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