THERE have been renewed calls to replace the Western Trust with a new one that is focused on Fermanagh.
Robert Patton, speaking at a Save Our Acute Services (SOAS) meeting at Fermanagh House earlier this week made the proposal to a packed audience as part of the group’s five-point plan for the South West Acute Hospital (SWAH).
He stated that by sweeping away the current Trust for one that was more ‘SWAH-centric’, the Enniskillen-based hospital could have its emergency surgery facility restored and it would flourish as a whole.
“What we really have to do is take responsibility for our own future and engineer a change of strategy,” said Patton. “The most important point is to install a new senior management.
“The Trust’s strategy, if there is one, is to use the SWAH as a kind of a ‘feeder hospital’ for Altnagelvin. In other words, push patients up the road – and that would be after minimal intervention at Enniskillen.
“It’s a failed and inappropriate strategy because it is not patient-focused. What we propose is a new status for the SWAH – one that is separate from the Western Trust.
“A separate Trust, it will have its own board of both doctors and non-executives and they in turn will be responsible for setting the strategy of the hospital which will essentially be focused on the patients.
“You might ask how would a new chief executive improve the situation when we already have one but given how the present one has contributed (to the role).
“If you think about it like this, the current chief executive at the moment is responsible for a number of hospitals in a number of different locations with a number of different problems and issues in each of them.
“A new chief executive in Enniskillen will be solely responsible for the activities of our hospital (the SWAH).”
Patton also cited the current Trust’s efforts in recruiting new staff and retaining current members as something a new Trust would greatly improve upon.
He added: “Failure to recruit is the cause that has been given by the Trust as to why they have to terminate the acute services. We also know that (staff) retention is a big problem. Why is it that those people are leaving at a rate that is higher than normal?
“A new SWAH will have the opportunity to change its approach to recruitment and staff retention. We know there is a salary top-up called the Rural Retention Scheme that allows hospitals in unfavourable locations to add up to 30 per cent of the consultant’s salary. The current Trust has never really used that – yet they talk about problems in recruitment.”
Patton also insisted that the SWAH could specialise in surgical specialities that would boost its current status to one that has it as the North’s leading hospital.
He continued: “Our medical adviser told us the SWAH should develop specialities such as bariatric, colorectal, breast and ENT. The hospital can gain a lot from having these specialities and being the best in the province.
“He also said that in that situation, there’s no reason why patients from all over Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland will eventually be coming to Enniskillen for treatment.”
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