DESPITE some recent success in its recruitment of surgeons, the Western Trust has refused outright to state when or even if it will ever restore emergency general surgery (EGS) to the South West Acute Hospital.
The Trust has repeatedly stated the removal of the service from the SWAH was a direct result of a reduction in its consultant rota, insisting it did not have enough surgeons to provide the EGS service safely at the Enniskillen hospital.
At the time of announcing what it insisted was the “temporary” removal of the service, the Trust told the Herald the removal of EGS had been the result of an unplanned collapse that had nothing to do with new standards set out by the Department of Health last year, which were published as part of a plan to reform the health service across the North.
However, despite recruiting new surgeons, the Trust is now repeatedly pointing to these standards when asked if it will ever restore the service.
The Herald is already aware of at least one surgeon recruited by the Trust, who is based at Altnagelvin and recently helped out with elective surgery procedures at the SWAH. It has now been revealed it has also recruited two more surgeons, who are due to start work in the coming months.
Speaking at the Herald’s Fermanagh and Omagh Decide debate last Thursday night, Dr Josephine Deehan said she and fellow GPs had recently met with senior consultants at the SWAH.
“I understand that already two new surgeons have accepted contracts with the Trust,” she said.
“They will be appointed later in the summer and in the autumn. It’s unclear where they will be based.”
Dr Deehan, a GP, added that the removal of the emergency surgery service from the SWAH “impacts directly on our ability to safely care for our patients.”
In the Trust’s consultation document, in the section outlining the circumstances of restoring EGS at the SWAH on page 28, it states that a minimum of four substantive consultants would be required.
The section of the document also outlines how the standards set out by the Department of Health last year had meant the Trust had been asked “to consider service reconfiguration” across SWAH and Altnagelvin, and how the Trust would be expected to “collaborate with the new General Surgery Network” across the North.
For background, this new network has seen SWAH being chosen as a hub for elective surgery, and the standards referred to by the Trust state emergency and elective surgery pathways should be kept separate.
This is not mentioned in the consultation document.
In light of its recent success in recruiting surgeons, the Herald asked the Trust if it managed to recruit the four consultants needed, would it be restoring the service.
The Trust responded by pointing the Herald to the above section of the consultation document.
The Herald pointed out this did not answer the question, and asked again if enough surgeons were recruited if the service would be restored. The Herald also asked if not, which of the new standards the SWAH did not meet.
The Trust again pointed to page 28 of the consultation document.
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