‘Lives will be lost’ if SWAH service is cut

“RURAL lives matter.”
That was the message from a meeting held at Fermanagh House last Thursday in response to the real and growing threat to emergency surgery services at the South West Acute Hospital.
Organised at short notice after the Trust confirmed last week that poor staffing levels at the Enniskillen hospital meant the service could be cut in the near future, there was a healthy attendance of people from various backgrounds across the local community.
The message to the Trust and Department of Health was clear – the people of Fermanagh will not accept the removal of the emergency surgery service, which would put local lives at risk.
One of those to speak at the meeting was local health campaigner and patient, Helen Hamill, who has been studying various recent health publications and consultations, including the province-wide review of emergency care by the Department of Health. She has also been following the developments from the local Trust closely with concern.
Ms Hamill said year after year figures showed the Fermanagh area was already the most deprived in the North, particularly regarding access to health care, with local health and life expectancy suffering as a result. Now, she said this latest potential cut would certainly result in local lives being lost.
“The area of deprivation is bad enough, if you were the least well off areas I could cope with that, but one of the key inequalities is that we have significantly less access than the Northern Ireland average to ambulance services, and we are a rural area,” she said. “Significantly worse than average doesn’t come much bleaker.”
Ms Hamill stressed that while there had been threats to cuts to emergency services at other hospitals too, such as Daisy Hill, unlike those living Fermanagh, patients in those areas would still have access to emergency care with an hour of their homes.
“We stand alone. We don’t have the golden zone, we don’t have the golden hour,” she said, noting patients could bleed out while travelling for up to two hours past SWAH to another hospital, particularly if an ambulance is not available. “There are surgeries that need to happen immediately. They’re going to be lives that are sacrificed here,” she said.
Ms Hamill questioned whether both the Trust’s internal review into emergency surgery and the Department’s wider review were in breach of the Rural Needs Act, which legally requires public bodies to give due regard to the needs of those living in rural areas.
“Rather than giving a positive correction of the inequalities and deprivation, they just come at us with a curve ball all the time,” she said, referring to previous threats to the SWAH stroke service, which would also have cost local lives, and the neonatal unit.
However, Ms Hamill noted that in both those cases it was the power of the local people here that forced u-turns and reprieves. When asked what her message to the Department and Trust would be, she urged those making the decisions to remember 
“rural lives matter.”

To read more.. Subscribe to current edition

Receive quality journalism wherever you are, on any device. Keep up to date from the comfort of your own home with a digital subscription.
Any time | Any place | Anywhere


The Fermanagh Herald is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
Registered in Northern Ireland, No. R0000576. 28 Belmore Street, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, BT74 6AA