FERMANAGH and Omagh councillors have tabled a motion of no confidence in the Western Trust board, with local elected representatives calling on the Trust chief executive to resign.
The motion has been tabled for debate at the next full Council meeting on December 6th.
It reads: “This Council notes with extreme concern and disappointment the wholly unsatisfactory handling of recent matters around threats to services at SWAH, with particular emphasis on the Western Trust’s apparent reluctance and/or inability to be open, transparent and accountable.
“As such, this Council no longer has confidence in the Chief Executive, Neil Guckian, to fulfil his role as a public servant, dealing with critical issues directly impacting on the lives and well-being of the community, and therefore regards his position as untenable.”
The Council has also called for an emergency meeting with Trust management to discuss the crisis at the SWAH.
Cllr Adam Gannon welcomed the call for the meeting, requesting that “everything is put in the public domain”.
Mr. Guckian came in for heavy criticism from councillors last week after he excluded public and Press from some details in his briefing to the Health and Social Services Subcommittee.
Despite expressing the need to be “upfront with the public”, Mr. Guckian read a statement, then insisted the meeting went in confidential session.
During a meeting of the Trust board last week, Mr Guckian also read a statement, with no further public discussion on the matter.
At last night’s meeting, Cllr Gannon said, “The [Western Trust] Chief Executive has to speak publicly, not just give a statement and go into confidential. I ask it’s made clear he cannot go into confidential unless for very specific reasons.”
The Council’s chief executive, Alison McCullagh, told members: “In my opinion, some matters discussed [at the Health Subcommittee] confidentially would have been helpful if in the public domain.”
Other members pointed to the requirement for transparency and accountability, particularly in the face of the potential threat to SWAH services, of which “things aren’t being disclosed”.
Councillor Donal O’Cofaigh commented: “Having reviewed as much information as I could obtain, and speaking to the public, experts, hospital staff on all levels and council colleagues, I consider this motion necessary and appropriate.
“I take no pleasure in it; however, the level of frustration and concern is intense.
“When Councillor Paul Blake recently exposed the latest threat to emergency surgery at [the] Council, tensions ran very high.
“This was swiftly followed by carefully worded statements assuring no decisions were made yet. The critical word being ‘yet’, and entirely redundant, as no councillor has suggested the decision was likely to be made immediately, rather [instead concerned about] what is coming hurtling at us down the track.
“Despite the rhetoric, the timings suggested in [the] Council turned out to be accurate, vindicating those of us who have been lambasted for ‘scaremongering’ – an egregious insult during such a serious situation.”
He continued: “When the Western Trust was challenged on another potential date of emergency surgery ending on December 17 if consultants weren’t in post, this was also played down. We shall see.
“Last week, Councillor John McClaughry informed us [that] before leaving office, the Minister for Health asked the Western Trust for specific assurances, but some of those important points remained outstanding.
“Warning was rightly sounded around the Trust trying to use the political uncertainty to slip through decisions otherwise requiring official sign-off.”
Councillor O’Cofaigh concluded: “Mr. Guckian clearly set out his stall when he spoke of his vision for SWAH as a regional elective centre and his determination to have this become reality.
“He informed us he has worked with the Department of Health on plans for SWAH as an overnight centre. That decision wasn’t reached overnight. It’s been in the pipeline for some time.
“With drip-fed information, u-turns, confusion and exclusion, the public quite naturally suspect this situation has been engineered. Driving this plan for SWAH forward at Mr. Guckian’s behest – and it’s difficult to even portray it as a Plan B – is going entirely against the wishes, requirements and rights of the community.
“For that reason, and the overall handling of this crisis, to date, his position is realistically no longer tenable.”
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