Fears for emergency surgery at SWAH

FEARS are growing that emergency surgery at the SWAH could be under threat after the Western Trust confirmed it was currently carrying out a review of general surgery provision across the area.
While the Trust has insisted it has “no plans to downgrade” the SWAH, concern is growing that if there is any reduction to the service following the review it could impact its Emergency Department provision and even its acute status.
In correspondence with local Cllr Donal O’Cofaigh, Trust chief executive Neil Guckian stressed there was “no imminent threat against either the Emergency Department or general surgical service at the current time.”
However, Mr Guckian went on to outline how a Trust-wide review of general surgical service provision was currently taking place, and the first phase of this review would be looking at the provision of emergency general surgery. He said it was expected that a report with recommendations from this review would be published in early summer.
“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,” he said.
Mr Guckian added, “I would like to reassure you that our Trust board and indeed the hospital management team based at South West Acute Hospital are fully committed to optimising all surgical capacity across the site and indeed in securing its position in providing healthcare for the region.
“There are no plans to downgrade South West Acute Hospital.”
When contacted by the Herald on the issue, a spokesman said, “The Trust is currently undertaking a review of general surgical services across the entire Trust geography.
“As part of this review, a programme board and work streams were established to explore long term surgical workforce sustainability both locally and in partnership with the region.”
Cllr O’Cofaigh, who has organised a protest to take place at SWAH at 3pm on Sunday, said the response he had received was “hugely concerning, regardless of the assurances [from] the Trust”, and said a protest was planned at the hospital this weekend to show the community would not accept any removal of the service.
Pointing to out the removal of emergency surgery from Daisy Hill Hospital earlier this year, due to staffing issues, had resulted in patients requiring emergency surgery being taken to Craigavon Area Hospital, and even Belfast, Cllr O’Cofaigh said the Southern Trust had claimed it was not downgrading that hospital either.
“The reality is that there are only two hospitals providing emergency surgery in the Western Trust region – Altnagelvin and SWAH,” said Cllr O’Cofaigh. “Any ‘review’ of that can only mean a threat to the service at SWAH.
“The loss of emergency general surgery to SWAH would mean ambulances being forced to drive past SWAH A&E to go to either Altnagelvin or Craigavon, which is already struggling to cope with the additional pressures from the closure of Daisyhill.”

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