“REAL progress” is being made in recruiting staff for the embattled neonatal unit at the SWAH, although no timeline can yet be confirmed for when the unit will be reopened to full capacity.
That was the update given to Health Minister Robin Swann when he visited the Enniskillen hospital recently, during which he called to a number of wards and spoke with local health and social care providers.
Among the main topics of discussion during the day-long visit was the live-saving neonatal unit, which has had its capacity slashed from six specialist cots to just two shortly before last Christmas, due to staff shortages. This has meant the unit can only currently provide emergency care and stabilisation for premature and sick babies.
In fact, so severe have the staff shortages been over recent months, the unit has been forced to close entirely for short periods several times.
Speaking following the visit, MLA Tom Elliott, who had invited the minister to the town, said Minister Swann had engaged with local staff “on a number of local pressing health matters.”
“One such matter is the ongoing temporary transfer of babies requiring a higher level of neonatal care,” said Mr Elliott.
“Whilst the SWAH neonatal unit continues to deliver neonatal services to babies who require less intensive short-term care, due to a number of staff departures and difficulty recruiting a decision was taken to temporarily adjust some services locally on grounds of patient safety.
“Thankfully, a number of posts have now been filled but due to the requirement for specialised training it’s not yet possible to confirm when the unit will reopen to full capacity. I’m glad however that real progress appears to be happening.”
While at the hospital, Minister Swann also visited the SWAH Children’s Ward, where he received an update on the ongoing initiative to tackle waiting lists by increasing paediatric elective surgery at the hospital.
“I know Robin Swann has a particular focus on the overall waiting times position, and whilst progress for the first time in very many years is starting to be made in bringing some of the lists down, not least through the greater utilisation of the SWAH for paediatric and orthopaedic lists for instance, there’s still a mountain of work to do,” said Mr Elliott.
“That’s why regardless of whoever takes over the Health Portfolio in any new Executive they will need to stick firmly to the objective of providing patients locally the health service that they deserve.”
During his visit to Enniskillen, Minister Swann also met with members of the Ambulance Service, staff at the Human Milk Bank, as well as representatives from the NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) specialist organ donation staff, based at SWAH. He took the opportunity to once again urge families to discuss the importance of organ donation.
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