SWAH rally told ‘this is just the beginning’

THE FIGHT to save emergency surgery at the South West Acute Hospital is only just beginning, with the community urged to continue to “build a movement” that will help sustain and save our local acute services.
Around 2,000 people turned out for the major rally at the Lakeland Forum last Friday night, organised by Save Our Acute Services (SOAS), in response to the suspension of emergency surgery at the SWAH, which began to be phased out on Monday this week due to a lack of surgical staff.
Around 700 members of the community, from the very young to the very old, packed inside the Forum’s hall, where there was standing room only, with many, many more gathering in the cold outside.
The rally was addressed by a range of speakers. This included members of the SOAS community campaign group organising committee, independent politicians and representatives from all our main local parties, Fr Brian D’Arcy, and chairman of Fermanagh and Omagh Council Barry McElduff.
However, while the size of the passionate crowd was impressive, organisers promised the rally was only the beginning of what would be a marathon fight to have the emergency surgery service returned, and to maintain the passion that has been sustaining the campaign so far.
“We are people, and the only power going forward is going to be people’s voices,” said SOAS’s Helen Hamill.
“I think we have proven tonight we can achieve much more than Stormont can. We have a full representation across this table unified to say our lives will not be lost on our watch.”
In particular, the community was urged to now turns its focus to the upcoming public consultation on the removal of the service, which is expected to begin in the first week of January.
SOAS chairman Reggie Ferguson said the group would continue to give leadership into the public consultation, stating “the fight goes on.”
Cllr Donal O’Cofaigh, also on the SOAS committee, noted the crowd present was “not big enough to save this hospital.”
“The only thing that’s going to force that to happen is people putting the pressure on and fighting,” he said, announcing SOAS would be also holding a “people’s consultation” along with the Trust’s upcoming consultation.
Cllr O’Cofaigh added, “We will use the next few months to build a movement that can sustain and save our hospital.”

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