THE WESTERN Trust is expected to announce the closure of surgical services at SWAH in the coming weeks, prompting concerns for the future status of the hospital. Now the Fermanagh community is being called upon to “mobilise” in protest against the expected decision.
As reported by the Herald as far back as April, a Trust review of the emergency surgery provision at the Enniskillen hospital had raised serious concerns the service may be moved from SWAH to another site. It is understood the service had been experiencing staffing issues. While the Trust has not confirmed any decision as yet, an announcement is expected as early as next week.
In June, when commenting on the ongoing review, Trust chief executive Neil Guckian said tough decisions would have to be made regarding the SWAH’s acute surgery service, and said the Trust review was assessing the sustainability of the service.
Last week local Cllr Paul Blake revealed in the Council chamber that the decision to slash the service had already been made. The Trust denied this, stating no decision had yet been made regarding the review. Cllr Blake told the Herald afterwards his source was “one hundred percent reliable.”
The Herald also understands from reliable sources the decision to cut the service has already been made although, again, the Trust has not updated its position on last week.
There are concerns the removal of emergency surgery from the hospital would have a severe impact on the provision of emergency care at the hospital, as well as obstetrics and gynaecology.
Cllr Blake urged the people of Fermanagh to “unite behind the hospital.”
“Their hospital is a focal part of the community, and people need to unite behind their hospital,” he said, urging people from across the community and political parties to come together.
“It’s about uniting behind one cause, and that cause is preservation of the South West Acute Hospital, and I want to stress the ‘acute’ part of that, in Enniskillen and the enhancement of services,” he said.
“People need to get out, they need to do whatever they can to mobilise. Hold public meetings, mobilise and protest. We can’t stand by and allow this to happen.”
Cllr Blake noted “people power” had helped stop the closure of Erne Hospital’s maternity services in the past and, in more recent years, its neonatal unit.
Cllr Donal O’Cofaigh, who has been warning of threats to the SWAH acute surgery service since April, said the decision to remove the service would cost lives, and threaten the future status of the hospital.
“Losing emergency surgery will mean huge numbers of lives lost as ambulances are forced to bypass our local hospital and travel all the way to Altnagelvin or Craigavon in an emergency. The loss will also inexorably lead to all other acute services being undermined – including our maternity and stroke,” he said.
“There is a domino effect and this is the central domino. We have to fight this. The people and workers of Fermanagh need to take a stand. If Stormont does not reverse course then we need to prepare to mount a fiercesome campaign up to and including mass civil disobedience to defend our hospital and our NHS.”
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