WITH recruitment ongoing by the Western Trust to help save and sustain services at the SWAH, here at the Herald we want to show off how great a place the hospital is to work, and how great a place Fermanagh is to live.
To kick off this series of articles, this week we speak to well known local man Benny Cassidy, who has worked in the local health service for the guts of four decades.
Benny has stressed the SWAH, regardless of the current issues, remains “a great place to work,” with a wonderfully supportive staff environment, and “facilities that are second to none.” Indeed, he said the staff of the SWAH were his “second family.”
Echoing the sentiment of many other staff from the hospital the Herald has spoken with over the years – both local and those ‘new to the parish’ – Benny said what stands out about the SWAH as a workplace was its friendly, informal, yet professional atmosphere, and the strong support staff give each other.
For example, Benny, who works as a porter, said in other hospitals you “wouldn’t dream of calling a consultant by their first name.” Yet, as long as it’s not in front of patients or the public, everyone at the SWAH is on friendly first-name terms.
“I think it’s in recognition we’re all part of a team,” he said. “There are different sized cogs, but take one out and the machinery wouldn’t work the way it does.”
He added, “I think what makes it unique is the friendliness of everybody. Not only staff to staff, but staff to the public and patients.”
This atmosphere of friendliness and support has been vital in recent years, with the challenges of Covid and the mounting pressures right across the health service.
“We found, especially through Covid times and everything else, everybody was putting their shoulder to the wheel. The staff really, really appreciate the efforts of each other,” he said.
“While there was demarcation depending on the job you did, we all realised we had to put in that extra effort to keep people safe and so on.
“That’s in relation to the protocols, but also in relation to how we treated each other.”
The high regard the staff at the SWAH are held in locally was also clearly demonstrated during the pandemic, with Benny noting the strong support the community gave the hospital.
“There were an awful lot of gestures of kindness from the public, every day they were arriving with things for the staff,” he said.
With the pandemic now well eased, the pressures on the health system remain, and it is no different at the SWAH. However, Benny said the support among staff helped them cope with the many challenges.
“I think what staff do is rise to the challenge. As it gets busier, the staff rise to meet it,” he said, adding staff were a great source of support to each other.
That support extends to those who have packed up their lives and moved to Fermanagh to work at the hospital.
For example, Benny referred to a the large group of staff who had been recruited from Zimbabwe in recent years, and who had been warmly welcomed into the SWAH family, many of whom he now calls friends.
“I often say to people, we might speak different languages but we all laugh the same way at the same things,” he said.
Benny was also full of praise for the hospital’s facilities, including its features for staff. For example, he said the Trust had planted fruit trees on the pretty lough-side walk behind the hospital, where staff can unwind.
Overall, Benny, who was born ‘between the bridges’ in the county town and worked at the Erne Hospital before the SWAH was built, said working at the Trust had meant he had “never had to leave Enniskillen for work or love,” referring to his wife Charlotte, who is also an Ennsikillen woman.
Recalling the big move to the SWAH ten years ago, Benny said while the new hospital may be a much larger, very different entity, it had “retained the heart of the Erne” and is “much more than just a building” to both staff and the local community.
If you want to share your thoughts on what makes the SWAH, or Fermanagh generally, a great place to work email firstname.lastname@example.org or 028 66322066.
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