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Belfast Live
Belfast Live
Conor Coyle

Fermanagh public vents anger at Western Trust in fiery SWAH consultation event

Co Fermanagh residents vented their anger at representatives from the Western Trust on Monday in the first of a series of events as part of a public consultation into the removal of emergency surgery services at the South West Acute Hospital.

In a confrontational meeting at the Lakeland Forum, campaigners and local residents frequently took the Trust to task over its decision to withdraw the service.

Trust chief executive Neil Guckian also admitted that it would be ‘challenging’ to see the service resume at the Enniskillen hospital, despite continuing to refer to the suspension of services as a ‘temporary, unplanned change’.

READ MORE: Enniskillen woman gets award from PM for initiative to combat loneliness

A retired general surgeon at the former Erne Hospital, Andrew McKibbin, challenged the directors on why in their recent recruitment efforts advertised for Trust wide consultant roles based in Altnagelvin.

“I speak as a retired general surgeon who spent his whole consultant career working in the Erne Hospital," Mr McKibbin said.

“I understand that the current strategy is to advertise posts in Altnagelvin with sessions in the SWAH.

“I would like to say here and no, no surgeon is attracted to that split type of post. Who wants to spend hours that could be spent in the local hospital, on the road, particularly in winter months.

“I realise you’ve had great difficulty recruiting and all I can say is - try harder. Go all out to sell the modern hospital with modern facilities, to sell the area which is a lovely place to live.”

Addressing the crowd, Fr Brian D’Arcy said the people of Fermanagh had been ‘betrayed’ and that morale amongst SWAH staff had never been so low.

“I’m a person who lives and dies in Fermanagh, I work in hospitals every single day. I know how hospitals work

“My anger is that our people in Fermanagh have been betrayed. I was one of the people who worked and worked to bring this hospital here, we brought it on medical science, not on politics, not on anything else.

“We don’t seem to have a method of being heard, no matter what we say or what we do the decisions are made. I’m glad you’re here tonight consulting us, I’m very happy about that but I wish you’d have done it a year ago before you made your decisions.

“The morale of our hospital workers, in my 10 or 12 years in this new hospital, I have never seen it so low. They feel neglected, they feel bullied, they feel that they don’t have a voice.”

Answers and presentations from Guckian and fellow Trust directors Mark Gillespie, Teresa Moll0y and Brendan Lavery had to be paused on several occasions due to interruptions from those in the hall.

Medical director Lavery defended the Trust’s recruitment strategy, saying ‘the reality is we cannot recruit’ the surgeons needed to make emergency general surgery safe at the hospital. He added that recruitment of medical staff was an issue throughout hospitals in the UK.

READ MORE: Western Trust confirms suspension of emergency surgery at South West Acute Hospital

Having maintained since the suspension of the service was announced in November that it was temporary, Guckian admitted that it was ‘challenging’ to see how it could return given staffing pressures.

“We’re making it very clear, it will be challenging to reinstate this service,” Guckian said.

“We are being open with the population, there are two annals to this. One is the recruitment of general surgeons and we’re doing everything we can.

“Secondly we then need to look at the regional standards for emergency general surgery, and they will be challenging for South West Acute Hospital to achieve.”

Public consultation events on the withdrawal of emergency surgery services at the SWAH continue this week, with meetings to be held in Lisnaskea, Belcoo and Irvinestown as well as events in parts of Tyrone.


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