THE WESTERN TRUST has this evening announced that emergency surgery at the South West Acute Hospital is to be suspended from December 4th.
The suspension, which the Western Trust says is a ‘temporary measure’, comes following the resignation of one of the general surgery team.
Emergency procedures will continue until December 4, 2022 before the suspension of the services is in place.
The Trust said it is continuing to try to recruit surgeons to the service, but anticipates it will be April at the very earliest before the service can be resumed, however there are fears it may become a permanent situation. A consultation will be launched in January at the earliest.
The Western Trust’s Director of Acute Services, Geraldine McKay, said: “I spoke publicly last month on the fragility of emergency general surgery at the SWAH. At our Trust Board meeting today, we updated members on the current position and a further resignation from another consultant in the general surgery team.
“This now means we will not be in a position to provide an emergency (unplanned) general surgical rota from December 18, 2022.
“Despite our efforts to recruit, we have not been successful in securing the necessary consultant workforce. Put simply, we cannot provide an emergency general surgery service without a consultant surgical team in place to provide the required 24/7 cover.
“The current rota for emergency general surgery will be maintained up until December 4, 2022. Planned elective surgery at the hospital will be continued.
“There will be minimal to no impact on the other existing services at the SWAH.
“We are liaising with our colleagues in the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service and the Southern Health and Social Care Trust on the new arrangements.”
Western Trust Chief Executive Neil Guckian did little to allay fears of any possible return of emergency surgery to the SWAH by announcing plans to rebrand the hospital as an overnight surgery facility.
He added: “We need to fully utilise all of our theatre capacity across the SWAH to undertake more elective procedures and we are delighted to work with the Department to develop the SWAH as an overnight elective surgery centre to benefit the growing numbers of patients on our waiting lists.
“I want to reassure the local community that the Trust is fully committed to developing and enhancing the SWAH as an essential part of the Western Trust and regional hospital network.
“We ask for public support and understanding as we continue to work through the challenges to develop a solution that meets the future needs of our population.
“We will be carrying out a full public consultation on this temporary change and will outline the details of this process in the coming weeks.
“Extensive work will be undertaken to inform patients of the change to general surgery services.”
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