Patients could go South if SWAH services removed

AS THE Western Trust reveals it is currently planning contingency measures in the event of emergency surgery being removed from the SWAH, the board of the health body has expressed “concern” over the “negative” publicity the current crisis is receiving.

At the November meeting of the Trust board it was revealed contingency plans were being drawn up, which include looking for support from south of the border and from private ambulances to ensure patient safety if, as feared, the emergency surgery service is removed from the Enniskillen hospital.

Last month the Trust revealed that surgeon staffing levels at the SWAH were becoming so low the emergency surgery service was approaching unsafe levels, and if new surgeons could not be recruited soon the service would have to be removed from the hospital.


The Trust’s board meeting, which was held in Omagh last Thursday and was well attended in person by board members, was opened by board chairman Sam Pollock, who stressed the situation at the SWAH was its highest priority right now.

“Clearly our biggest concern as a Trust continues to be the shortage of surgeons in the Western Trust, but particularly at the South West Acute,” said Mr Pollock.

He added, “I express my concern about the negative and, in some cases, inaccurate comments that are being made in the community and the press.”

Mr Pollock went on to stress it was “a difficult situation” but the Trust was doing “everything possible” to resolve the dilemma, such as trying to recruit more surgeons across the entire Trust area.

Western Trust chief executive Neil Guckian also stressed recruitment efforts were continuing, with the Trust currently advertising for general surgeons across the Trust, with a closing date of November 18th for applications.

However, he went on to outline how the Trust was planning for what would happen if the posts were not filled.

“In the meantime it is prudent for the Trust to develop contingency plans to ensure safety of patients, should a change in service be necessary,” he said.


“The Trust continues to plan involved engagement with a wide range of staff, the Southern Trust, Northern Ireland Ambulance Service, a private ambulance provider, and Sligo General Hospital.”

In what was no doubt a response to a recent letter from consultants expressing their fears for women and babies’ safety in the event the service was removed, Mr Guckian added, “We have invited in the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists to provide assurances on any wider impact.

“As part of the contingency plans we will consider all recommendations received and feedback from this.”

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