New Health Minister must move quickly on SWAH – SOAS

HOSPITAL campaign group Save Our Acute Service (SOAS) has called on the incoming Health Minister in the new Stormont Assembly to “move quickly” to “create a positive dynamic” to restore and sustain services at the South West Acute Hospital (SWAH), particularly in light of the review published this week that called for a debate on the future of maternity services at the Enniskillen hospital.

SOAS has said the Getting It Right First Time (GIRFT) review on gynaecology services – which was commissioned by the Department of Health and carried out by Dr David Richmond at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in London – also highlighted the urgent need for emergency general surgery (EGS) to be restored at the SWAH.

The campaign group welcomed the quick response from the Western Trust yesterday afternoon which stated the Trust remained fully committed to providing full maternity services at the SWAH.


However SOAS expressed concern the GRIFT review report showed “a complete lack of appreciation for the challenges for rural communities.” For example, the report stated there was “a cultural issue” where patients expected care to be provided locally, which SOAS felt showed a lack of “any appreciation of the distances involved, the quality of our roads, or the absence of public transport connections.”

“This review is the latest example of a surgeon based in London trying to impose a model of provision which might work in a city – not one of the most rural parts of the UK,” said SOAS spokesman Donal O’Cofaigh.

He added, “These sorts of reports written by people with no appreciation of our geography can have no role to play in shaping future provision in Northern Ireland.”

Mr O’Cofaigh said SOAS had consistently warned the ‘temporary’ removal of EGS from SWAH “was always going to undermine other services at the hospital.”

“The only way to reverse such threats is for the incoming Stormont Health Minister to quickly confirm the goal of restoring acute and emergency surgery at SWAH and to then roll-out an ambitious ‘rebuild’ strategy to deliver that goal,” he said.

“Such an approach will require the colocation of a range of surgical services, including Bariatric and Gynae/Obstetrics.

“In particular we need to see the rules applied for ‘unavoidably small’ hospitals in England introduced in Northern Ireland – we need a model that understands the need for access to acute and emergency provision but which also works for our population.”


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