PROTESTERS campaigning against the downgrading of surgical services at the SWAH made their voices heard at Enniskillen Town Hall.
A delegation from Save Our Acute Services (SOAS) which included local solicitor Reggie Ferguson, local businessman Robert Patton and health activists Helen and Jimmy Hamill, made a presentation to members of Fermanagh & Omagh District Council.
The presentation contained the group’s vision for the SWAH hospital that would attract consultants to conduct specialised medical procedures at the hospital and open the door for the return of emergency general surgery.
The delegation was joined online by former SWAH Consultant Surgeon Essam Ghareeb, a leading health service researcher Professor John Browne and the Rural Community Network’s Aidan Campbell who has advised the Department of Health on rural proofing policy.
Ahead of the delegation entering Enniskillen Town Hall to provide their presentation to the council, there was a large people-power show of strength where local people demonstrated their demand for the retention of emergency general surgery and other acute services at the hospital.
The crowd was addressed by SOAS Chairman Reggie Ferguson before he entered the building.
Campaign spokesman Donal O’Cofaigh, who attended the meeting as a councillor, emphasised that the presentation represented a turning point for the campaign to save local services at SWAH.
He said: “The people of Fermanagh and Tyrone have heard enough of the reasons why we can’t have safe access life-saving emergency general surgery at SWAH – tonight was about how we can retain this vital service.
“The panel of experts that SOAS put forward made a powerful case showing how services can be retained if there is only the will to do so. We have a world class hospital perfectly located to service patients from across a wide cross-border catchment.
“We have committed and dedicated staff and Fermanagh is a wonderful place for anyone to come and live in. Most of all, as a community, we have repeatedly demonstrated how much we value our local NHS services.
“All we need is for the ambition of the workforce and the community to be matched by those in government, the departments and trusts.”
O’Cofaigh also insisted that a successful recruitment and retention programme for consultant programme could be put in place with “and attractive and imaginative approach” for the Western Trust.
He added: “Medical professionals with a lifetime of experience and expertise repeatedly highlighted how, contrary to the negative narrative peddled by the Trust management, we can succeed in recruiting and retaining consultant surgeons at SWAH.
“Positions need to be made attractive and an imaginative approach taken to commissioning new and attractive specialisms at SWAH which will bring consultants from around the world. There are five theatres in SWAH but two of them have never even been commissioned – we need a total sea change in a failed management approach.
“The huge crowd who gathered to show their support for the SOAS delegated confirmed the determination of this community to retain this vital service.
“What we need now is for the leaderships of all political parties to come out fully and publicly to back the demand for the return of emergency general surgery at SWAH. If we get that then the momentum to reverse this unjust decision will become unstoppable.”
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