Claims Trust ‘discounted’ SWAH consultation responses

MEMBERS of the local Council are to take time to consider the Western Health and Social Care’s Consultation Findings Report around the suspension of emergency general surgery at the South West Acute Hospital (SWAH); however, some picked up on a number of preliminary concerns at the recent Policy and Resources Committee meeting which they called to be addressed.
Chief Executive Alison McCullagh told the Committee the report was just received ahead of the meeting after it was presented to the Western Trust Board.
She drew attention to the conclusion which notes in the Western Trust’s opinion the process is “appropriate and valid … and remains of the view the temporary decision taken was correct”.
It continued: “There is nothing in the consultation report to suggest that will change.”
Ulster Unionist Councillor Mark Ovens said: “Nothing in this report should surprise us after everything we’ve seen from the Trust over the last number of months.
“One thing that stands out is the claim of 101 responses to the consultation and that seemed remarkably low.
“However, it then becomes clear they have effectively discounted SOAS [Save Our Acute Services] responses. Many people in this county responded through the SOAS forum.
“In my mind, that’s an attempt by the Trust to deliberately undercount the responses, which is unfair and inappropriate on their count,” he claimed.
Councillor Ovens continued: “One thing which really only came to light through SOAS was when the proposal went to the Minister [for Health] last October, it was perhaps suggested that everyone to be consulted had been within the Department, but it turns out it was a full month later before senior officials in the Public Health Agency raised genuine concerns about the lack of information and knowledge.”
He added: “I have lots of deep, deep reservations about this consultation.”
Councillor Eddie Roofe pictured right,, Alliance, echoed Councillor Ovens’ remarks, adding: “The SOAS responses do seem to have been clearly ignored, so that should be noted.
“There’s very little [in the document] I didn’t expect to see. One point I feel is important is the mention of recruitment and retention.
“I’ve been in multiple meetings with the Trust where they said they were not allowed to offer incentives or a salary premium for consultants to work in SWAH.
“Yet [the report] specifically states the salary premium can be considered if it affects the whole of a Health and Social Care Trust, who are required to build a business case to provide that.
“There’s no indication the Trust even attempted that process. We’ve seen multiple consultants resigning from Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry, and a lot are now working in the Republic.
“That’s one of the key issues. It’s a huge pay increase to go there.
“What we are experiencing is clearly a crisis for the whole Health and Social Care sector, not just these two hospitals.
“As such, the Trust should have applied to the Department of Health for this salary premium,” he added.

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