SWAH cut – Fermanagh patients 8% more likely to die

THE Save Our Acute Surgery (SOAS) group has launched the first in a series of research papers outlining the impact the suspension of emergency general surgery at the SWAH will have on the local population.

This research, which was carried out by data experts along with local active and retired medical professionals, highlights in stark detail the extra journey times patients requiring emergency surgery from the county now face. It also shows that local people are now up to eight percent more likely to die if they are in a life-and-death situation, as a result of the suspension of the service.

The research report was delivered by SOAS’s Jimmy Hamill at a press launch in Fermanagh House this morning, December 12th.


Since last Monday, December 5th, emergency general surgery has been temporarily suspended at the Enniskillen hospital. The Western Trust has stated this has been an unplanned collapse as a result of a shortage of surgeons. However, since the announcement of the service suspension last month, consultants working with the Department of Health have insisted the removal of emergency surgery from the SWAH is in the best interest of both local patients, claiming those who travel for treatment can expect better outcomes, and for patients across the North, arguing the hospital should be used instead as an elective hub which will help bring down regional waiting lists.

The research carried out by SOAS shows that, prior to December 5th, every area of the North had access to a Type 1 Emergency Department with emergency general surgery within the ‘golden hour’ travel band of 60 minutes.

Following the suspension of the service, 58,607 people – 95 percent of the population of Fermanagh – are now outside that ‘golden hour’ travel distance to an ED with emergency surgery.

The research shows patients in the county now face an average travel time of 83 minutes to either Altnagelvin or Craigavon – whichever is closer – to access this emergency service. Two areas – Belcoo and Garrison, and Boho, Cleenish and Letterbreen – face over 100 minutes travel each to access an ED with emergency surgery.

The report also references research which shows there is a one percent increased risk of mortality for every 10km travelled in a life-threatening emergency. On average, based on the data gathered by SOAS, Fermanagh patients in a life-threatening emergency are now six percent more likely to die, while in some areas such as Enniskillen this risk has increased to eight percent.

The group stressed this data referred to life-threatening situations, not all emergency general surgery situations. The group also noted the data being referenced by the consultants working with the Department of Health, which they states shows patients can expect better outcomes when travelling for care, do not examine situations where patients had to travel for more than 60 minutes. Indeed, the group noted a distinct lack of research on situations where patients must travel for the distances now facing Fermanagh patients.

For more on this story, see Wednesday’s Fermanagh Herald.


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