Western Trust publishes Findings Report on SWAH Emergency General Surgery Consultation

The temporary suspension of Emergency General Surgery (EGS) at the South West Acute Hospital in Enniskillen is set to continue because the Western Trust says they still don't have the staff. 

The service was suspended 'temporarily' in December.

A total of 321 patients who need EGS have been transferred from SWAH. Of those 296 were taken to Altnagelvin and 25 to Craigavon. 

With £150,000 being spent on private ambulances to transfer patients. 

Former senior Fermanagh surgeon Esam Ghareeb who worked at both the Erne and SWAH for 30 years told UTV he fears the service will be removed for good.

He warned if that was the case 'lives will be at risk'. He said with patients he had treated over the years, there were people which would not have survived a transfer.

He also claimed without emergency services, acute services will also disappear. He said the facility could become a "large expensive nursing home." Something the health trust rejected.

A spokesperson for the Western Trust they were "extremely disappointed" with Mr Ghareeb's remarks.

"SWAH is essential to the entire hospital network of Northern Ireland, with a Type 1 ED and has a very bright future," they said in a statement.

"However, the former surgeon’s comments could have a detrimental impact on the SWAH and our ability to recruit and retain staff.

“The temporary suspension of Emergency General Surgery at SWAH was recommended by current practising general urgeons and medical specialists and the pathways that have been put in place are there to protect the safety of all those people in the local community who require emergency general surgery.

"It is important to re-emphasise that no patients have had negative clinical outcomes since the alternative pathways were introduced in December 2022.

“The Trust is committed to the safety of our patients and this will always be our priority.”

The ‘Findings Report’ on the Western Health and Social Care Trust’s consultation on the temporary suspension of Emergency General Surgery at South West Acute Hospital was published on the 6 July 2023.

The consultation was carried out in accordance with the Department of Health Circular on ‘Change or Withdrawal of Services’ and in line with the Trust’s consultation scheme.

This included seven face-to-face and two online events alongside staff engagement and information sessions.

The Trust is required under these arrangements to seek out ‘viable alternatives’ to the temporary pathways which were put in place, through consultation with the public and staff.

The board was satisfied that the consultation process fulfilled this requirement.

The report reflects a range of views expressed over the Trust's 12 week consultation. It identifies key themes from the responses to the consultation. and concerns raised by the community.

In relation to the Trust's decision, Western Trust Chief Executive Neil Guckian said: “This was a very difficult and challenging process and we fully acknowledge the concerns raised by the local communities. 

"I want to thank everyone who has put their views forward and pay tribute to all of the staff who supported the extensive consultation process.”

"The decision to temporarily suspend Emergency General Surgery at the SWAH was taken to protect public safety. 

"The Western Trust is fully committed to protecting the safety of our patients who require Emergency General Surgery and we will continue to focus on providing high quality care to them.

“Although there was very significant objections to the temporary change, the new pathways put in place have been working effectively. 

"An average of two patients per day have been admitted to Altnagelvin for Emergency General Surgery since 19 December 2022, and we are pleased to report there is no evidence that the temporary change to the pathways at SWAH has negatively impacted on patient clinical outcomes.”

Mr Guckian continued: “We recognise how difficult it will be to reinstate Emergency General Surgery at SWAH due to both recruitment challenges and the requirements for access to other clinical services within the new regional standards for General Surgery, published by the Health Minister. 

"South West Acute Hospital falls some way short of meeting the requirements of these standards.

“Delivering safe care to the population of the West was the primary reason for this temporary change.

"We are satisfied that the temporary suspension of Emergency General Surgery at SWAH and the new pathways put in place to assess patients in our ambulatory pathway at SWAH, and to treat patients requiring admission at Altnagelvin, has significantly mitigated the patient safety risks which arose from the challenges in the Consultant General Surgeon workforce.

“The alternative clinical pathways for the treatment of emergency general surgery patients at SWAH are carefully monitored by the Trust and this will continue at this time.”

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