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Figures reveal more patients forced to travel

NEW figures have revealed what most patients here in the county already knew, that Fermanagh people are asked to travel for treatment more often than patients elsewhere in the Western Trust. 
The South West Carers and Families (SWCF) group have been carrying out research into the issue of outpatient appointments, and recently submitted a freedom of information request (FOI) for info on where patients were being asked to attend their appointments. 
The figures showed that while 97 percent of people in the Altnagelvin catchment area were seen at Altnagelvin, only 73 percent of people in SWAH’s catchment area were seen at the local hospital. 
On top of that, over the past five years there had been an almost five percent decrease in the number of outpatient appointments being offered at SWAH. On the flipside, there was an almost five percent increase in the number of outpatient appointments being offered at Altnagelvin. 
“Why is this the case?” asked a spokesman for the SWCF. “It results in an enormous amount of travelling for people from the south of the [Western Trust area] up to Altnagelvin, and both significant time and expense.” 
Cllr Donal O’Cofaigh, who has been supporting the group in its research, said the figures revealed “the impact of cutbacks to outpatients clinics at SWAH.” He said the figures meant 21 percent of people in SWAH’s area were having to travel for treatment while “by comparison negligible numbers go the other direction.”
“This is a shocking situation rooted in austerity, waste on private providers and the Bengoa rationing strategy,” he said. “Fermanagh residents are losing out and being forced to travel large distances for clinics that could and should be provided locally at our own Acute hospital.
“These figures confirm SWAH is being treated as a tier two acute hospital as a result of the cutbacks. Consultants here see less than a quarter of the outpatients that are seen in Altnagelvin.”
Cllr O’Cofaigh called on the Trust to “reverse this approach and provide investment and staffing to bring SWAH up to standard” and said the situation needed to be an election issue. 
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