PEOPLE power has saved SWAH services in the past, and it may now be needed once again to protect its emergency surgery provision.
That was the message from a protest held at the Enniskillen hospital on Sunday, which was organised after it was revealed the Western Trust was currently carrying out a review into surgery provision across all its sites, starting with emergency surgery.
As reported in last week’s Herald, while the Trust has insisted it has “no plans to downgrade” the SWAH, the review has created concern as it is feared any reduction to its emergency surgery service could jeopardise its emergency department and even the hospital’s acute status.
It is understood this review is expected to be completed by the summer, after which the local public will be given a chance to have its say.
In correspondence with local Cllr Donal O’Cofaigh, Trust chief executive Neil Guckian said,“Any proposed changes to services would be subject to consultation and the Trust would fully intend to consult widely on any proposed change that may be required or accepted by our Trust board.”
Cllr O’Cofaigh, who organised the protest at the SWAH on Sunday, said the community needed to engage in the process and fight for the service if need be.
“This is not a campaign that’s going to won in the next few weeks, we’re going to have to build this over a prolonged period,” he said.
“There is a commitment now by the Trust that they are going to consult the people on any proposal. There is a nervousness that might not happen, but let’s take them on their word.”
Cllr O’Cofaigh said the community would need to “mobilise” like it did in response to previous threats to SWAH services.
“People power can save our hospital and we need people to engage in that process,” he said. “We’ve done it before. We’ve shown how we can mobilise as a community repeatedly to defend our stroke unit and also to defend out neonatal.
“We’re now going to have to stand up for our emergency surgery as well as neonatal.”
In response to last week’s Herald article, public sector trade union NIPSA has expressed its concern at news of the review.
“NIPSA is very concerned at reports of a review into surgical services in the Western Trust and the potential impact this could have on SWAH,” said a spokesman for the union.
“Reviews in other areas have led to cuts in services from individual sites, despite claims that this was not a downgrading of services, evidenced most recently in the Southern Trust. This has led to patients being required to travel much further afield for emergency surgery.”
They added: “The Western Trust currently only offers emergency surgery across two sites, Altnagelvin Area Hospital and South West Acute Hospital and any review would likely only mean a change to the status of SWAH.
“Given the large geographical area covered by the Trust and the potential knock-on effect on other services in SWAH if surgery was scaled back or removed, NIPSA has grave concerns about the impact of any cuts and remain committed to opposing any reduction or removal of services.”
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