A FERMANAGH family who were told their baby was too sick to survive the winding, bumpy road to Altnagelvin have hit out at the Western Trust’s claims transferring patients to the hospital will be safe for local people.
Since the Trust announced on Thursday it was “temporarily” withdrawing the emergency surgery service from the SWAH – with patients instead being transferred to Altnagelvin, Craigavon or other hospitals – it has stated repeatedly that not only will no lives be put at risk by the move, but that it will result in “better outcomes” for local patients.
However, many here in the community have pointed out Fermanagh has the worst roads in the North, and that the lacking local infrastructure makes the move even riskier.
Imelda and Marty Naan know all too well the risk involved, after the birth of their little baby Harry. They feel so strongly about it, they came out last Thursday evening to protest at the Townhall, following the Trust’s announcement.
Speaking to the Herald, Imelda explained that when Harry was born in October 2021, he was supposed to be transferred to Altnagelvin, but they were told he couldn’t be as the road was too bad.
Imelda, who could not praise the staff of the SWAH enough for saving Harry, said that she’d had a problem-free pregnancy, and a normal delivery. Unfortunately, shortly after birth it was discovered Harry had meconium aspiration, and he went into pulmonary hypertension. He couldn’t breathe.
“If it wasn’t for the SWAH, who set up the whole of Harry’s healthcare, he wouldn’t be here today,” she said, describing the care he was given at the SWAH as outstanding.
“It was only for the SWAH staff, who got him stable and gave him that fighting chance to be able to survive.”
After the staff had stabilised Harry, Imelda and Marty were told he had to be transferred to Altnagelvin. However, after a wait they were told later in the day he would have to be transferred to the Royal Victoria in Belfast instead.
“The team that came down, because he had to go by specialist team, said they were not comfortable taking him to Altnagelvin because he was that critically ill, he would not make the journey,” she said.
“SWAH was just amazing. They had him ready to go and they would not let him out of the hospital until they knew there was a chance he would definitely make the journey. They said they had to go to Belfast because it was a straight road.”
Imelda added, “You know yourself, if you are critically ill, you need to have the smoothest journey possible to get you there. The road to Altnagelvin was out of the question.”
Harry went on to be transferred to a hospital in England, where he underwent specialist surgery, and was returned to Craigavon hospital afterwards. Imelda said all of the hospitals gave him amazing care, but again credited SWAH with saving his life. Thankfully, he is now doing well.
“There was zero oxygen lost to Harry’s brain, which is a testament to the hospital, because that’s how fast they acted,” she said. “He’s under observation for the first two years, but he’s doing that amazing we’ve no concerns.”
Imelda has hit out at the removal of the SWAH emergency surgery, fearing for the knock-on impact it could have on other services, and was particularly annoyed to hear the Trust’s comments on how only “a small number” of patients require emergency surgery at the hospital.
“I just think that is an absolutely disgusting statement, it’s heartbreaking for somebody to actually say that,” she said. “They clearly haven’t been through what we’ve been through.
“If they had been through what we went through, they would never be able to utter that statement.”
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