THE COUNCIL is to seek legal advice over what they believe to be the “undercounting” of Fermanagh responses to the stroke consultation by the Department of Health, which may lead to the closure of the life-saving unit.
A consultation was launched as part of the Department’s ‘Reshaping Stroke Services’ plan in 2016, which recommended the number of stoke units in the North be reduced from eight to between five and three. The consultation suggested six options, three of which would see the state-of-the-art unit at SWAH being shut.
Outraged at the possibility and fearful of the impact the closure would have on patients’ life expectancy here, thousands of local people came out to voice their fierce opposition to the proposal at numerous consultation meetings right across Fermanagh.
However, when the Department published the response figures to the consultation, it stated just over 6,000 responses were received from all of Fermanagh and Tyrone. That is despite councillors and campaigners stressing they saw and helped deliver upwards of 9,000 and possibly even 10,000 responses from Fermanagh alone.
In response, the Council wrote to the Department to express disappointment and concern about these figures.
In his response Health Minister Robin Swann said he had asked his officials to review the figures and they were “still confident that this information is accurate and accounted for.”
Minister Swann said the responses were not recorded by Council district but 6,097 “individually completed questionnaires from County Fermanagh and Tyrone.”
The Minister said in his letter no responses to the consultation were rejected.
When the matter was raised at a recent policy and resources committee, there was universal concern expressed by the councillors present.
Cllr Donal O’Cofaigh, pictured below left, said he felt the letter “demonstrates that the Department appears to be intent on undercounting responses from the Fermanagh and Omagh area” which may be because the consultation was “going the wrong way” for it.
Cllr Adam Gannon, pictured below right, said it was “staggering” thousands of local responses had not been included.
“We seen it with our own eyes, what was being submitted,” he said. “This isn’t even included others who may have submitted their own response individually.”
Cllr Sheamus Greene said the Council should be sticking up for the 3,000-4,000 local people whose responses the Department had not included in their figures.
“I think it’s shocking, there is something almost sinister about the fact almost 4,000 signatures and consultations have disappeared. That isn’t easily done. If you put 4,000 of those documents together it’s fairly substantial,” he said.
Cllr Greene requested the Council seek “a legal remedy” to the current situation.
“I think we should be looking for legal advice on this. We shouldn’t let it go,” he said. “I think we should be standing up for these people who made the effort.”
To read more.. Subscribe to current edition