Western Trust ‘consulting on failure’ says campaign group as they prepare to meet MLAs

The WHSCT consultation on the changes has opened a month after emergency general surgery was suspended.

Emergency general surgery at the SWAH has been suspended since December 19, with the announcement made a month beforehand on November 17.

A consultation on the decision, however, was only launched this week by the Western Health and Social Care Trust (WHSCT), with seven face-to-face public engagements planned across the Fermanagh and Omagh area.

Two virtual meetings will also take place as part of the consultation, with separate engagement sessions for staff.

Due to run until April 2023, the outcome of the consultation will be considered at a Trust Board meeting in the summer.

Western Health and Social Care Trust Chief Executive Neil Guckian

Tickets for the face-to-face events will have to be reserved through online ticketing website Eventbrite to ‘comply with health and safety regulations’, the Trust has said.

The nature and timing of the consultation plans have drawn criticism from Save Our Acute Services (SOAS), who are pushing for the retention of services in Enniskillen.

“Consultation has to be open, full and meaningful. There are guidelines for it,” said a spokesperson.

“I’ve never been asked to do consultation on something that is temporary and has already happened.”

The group have also criticised the need for online tickets to take part in the face-to-face consultation meetings.

“If you’re not internet-savvy, you don’t’ go. You lose a swathe of the population. You cut out the grey, wise heads that have been there, done that and deserve to be spoken to.

“It is retrospective consultation on a collapse in workforce. We are consulting on a failure, we are not consulting on a vision.”

WHSCT chief executive Neil Guckian said he understood this was a ‘concerning time for the local population’.

“I want to reassure people that our priority is to provide a safe, sustainable and effective emergency general surgery service for patients in the Western Trust area, ensuring safe services and the best outcomes for all patients,” he said following the consultation launch.

“The main objective of this consultation is to see if an alternative viable means of delivering emergency general surgery at SWAH can be identified.

“A hybrid approach of both online and face to face engagement will be taken to enable an inclusive and well-managed approach to consultation events where there is likely to be a high level of public interest.

South West Acute Hospital

“We would encourage the public and our staff to respond to our consultation which is available on the Trust’s website or by contacting our Health Improvement Equality and Involvement office on (028) 71 865127.”

It comes after a Fermanagh mother was forced to drive her son to Altnagelvin – a two-hour journey – in freezing fog last week for emergency surgery after waiting several hours for an ambulance at the SWAH. The woman told the Fermanagh Herald that there was nobody on site in Enniskillen to undertake surgery on her son.

“Getting him to Derry was my priority because I was being told there was nobody on site to deal with it if anything did go wrong,” she said.

“They never considered our safety, never mind the patient’s safety. There are so many things that are completely wrong with this.”

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