The Western Trust has confirmed the rheumatology service at the South West Acute Hospital (SWAH) has been temporarily moved to the Omagh Hospital and Primary Care Complex.
Stressing this was not related to in any way to the suspension of emergency general surgery at the SWAH, a spokesperson said the move was due to a locum consultant leaving their post at the hospital in October.
“The Trust attempted to fill the locum vacancy but were unsuccessful in same,” they said.
“We are now actively embarking on the recruitment of a permanent Western Trust Consultant Rheumatologist.”
The temporary removal of the service was brought to the public’s attention by a local patient, who found out the service had been moved when they recently contacted the SWAH to enquire why they had not received one of their regular appointments. This patient then alerted local campaign group Save Our Acute Services.
Just over 400 patients were awaiting a new rheumatology outpatient appointment at the SWAH as of February, the Trust confirmed.
When asked why these patients had not been informed of the move, the spokesperson said, “Each patient has not been advised of this temporary change to service provision as this was a temporary change dependent on availability of consultant cover, Rheumatology service provision to SWAH patients continued through an interim outreach model however located on the Omagh Hospital Site.
“It is ongoing Trust practice to align service demand to consultant capacity to equalise and manage the length of time waiting for a first Outpatient appointment across the WHSCT area – however we continue to promote the principles of care “closer to home” so it is not uncommon for patients to be asked to travel for an Outpatient appointment which is deemed reasonable in accordance with the Integrated Elective Access protocols.”
They added, “Staff in the Northern Sector of the Trust have been facilitating outreach clinics on the Omagh Hospital site to mitigate the impact on patients in the Southern Sector of the Trust.”
For more on this story see next week’s Fermanagh Herald.
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