Trust stresses safety top priority as neonatal faces staffing strain

THE WESTERN Trust has once again moved to reassure the local public it is doing all it can to restore the neonatal service at SWAH, launching an international recruitment campaign and setting up a project board to tackle the issue.

Speaking at a media briefing yesterday (Wednesday), Deirdre Mahon, director of women and children’s services at the Western Trust, said she wanted to reassure local parents and the wider public “that the Trust is absolutely committed to work through our current staffing challenges at the neonatal unit at the South West Acute.”

Outline the various ways in which the Trust is trying to recruit more staff – such as through an international recruitment campaign, training up existing staff, and setting up a project board – Ms Mahon said staffing difficulties had been ongoing over the past number of years and were happening across the North.


“The result of that is we’re having great difficulty providing adequate nursing cover for many shifts, and the staff that are there are really exhausted,” she said. “They are working long hours over time to keep the unit going, because we are absolutely committed to keeping this unit going.”

Ms Mahon added, “We’re doing everything in our power to actively recruit and try to address gaps in our workforce to ensure a safe and sustainable neonatal service.”

Ms Mahon said the long-term staffing issues were being compounded by short-term staffing shortages as a result of Covid, staff shortages across the North’s entire neonatal network meant there was no opportunity to recruit staff from elsewhere.

“While we recognise the shortage of neonatal nurses at the South West Acute Hospital has been an ongoing concern, the unit have implemented a contingency plan to ensure all the babies born at the hospital are safely cared for,” she said.

“This is nothing but a safety issue. This includes reducing cot capacity in order to provide an emergency and stabilisation of sick and pre-term babies to another regional unit for ongoing specialist care, if required.”

Tomorrow night (Thursday), at 7.30pm, local group Lamp Fermanagh is holding an emergency community meeting via Zoom to address the ongoing concerns. All are invited, and further details can be found on the group’s Facebook page.

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