South West Acute Hospital to suspend emergency surgery next month

Emergency surgery at the South West Acute Hospital in Co Fermanagh will be temporarily suspended from next month.

Complex procedures like cancer surgeries will also be moved to Altnagelvin Hospital in Co Londonderry.

The director of the Western Trust said that the hospital has been unable to maintain the workforce to deliver the service safely.

"We have been attempting to recruit to this service now on a number of occasions," Geraldine McKay told UTV.

"Since 2014 we have had six rounds of recruitment in that time and we have been unable to maintain and sustain a feasible rota for our surgical consultants out of hours."

Campaigners are concerned that lives could be lost if emergency surgery is taken away for good.

Linda Saunderson said: "We're just to far away to be going to Craigavon or Altnagelvin for services - lives will be lost, it's very simple and straightforward."

In a statement, the Health Department says it "fully recognises the importance of SWAH to the people of Fermanagh and Tyrone and to Northern Ireland’s hospital network".

It continued: "The first duty of any health system is to provide safe care and the Department is satisfied that the Western Trust’s decision to temporarily suspend the service has been taken on public safety grounds, due to a lack of consultant general surgeons.

"The mitigations put in place by the trust will be closely monitored by the department, including the transport arrangements for patients requiring treatment in other hospitals."

The statement added that the future of emergency general surgery at South West Acute Hospital will now be the subject of a public consultation. 

"Any permanent decision to cease emergency general surgery will require approval from the department and health minister," it continued.

"The department can reassure the local population on SWAH’s future. It is a vital part of our hospital network and will very much remain so.

"We can confirm that the department is working with the trust to make the hospital Northern Ireland’s third elective overnight stay centre, following earlier announcements on the Mater Hospital in Belfast and Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry.

"This will help the local population to receive better and quicker planned surgical care, and also help the whole region. It is expected to increase the number of operations and patients at SWAH."

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