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Special Trust Board Meeting to Consider General Surgery at South West Acute Hospital, Enniskillen


Special Trust Board 171022

The Western Trust held a special Trust Board meeting today (Monday 17 October 2022) during which the challenging position regarding Emergency General Surgery at South West Acute Hospital was considered.

The meeting also discussed plans being developed with the Department of Health to expand non-emergency planned surgery at the hospital.

Speaking after the meeting, Geraldine McKay, Director of Acute Services at the Western Trust said:

“We have become increasingly concerned at the fragility of Emergency General Surgery at the South West Acute Hospital. At our meeting today we updated Trust Board members of the current position and discussed a number of future planning options. The Department of Health and the Service Commissioner the SPPG are fully aware of the position and are being kept appraised of developments.”

She continued:

“Despite our efforts to recruit, we have not been successful to date in securing the necessary consultant workforce. In recent months the Trust has highlighted the challenges of recruiting and retaining experienced consultant surgeons to provide the service.

“This is not a question of funding but maintaining the required workforce. The Trust is funded for six consultant surgeons to provide the service and we currently are working with three surgeons supported by locums. In recent days, we have been notified of forthcoming changes in the staff team which unless restored will leave it impossible to sustain a safe emergency general surgery service at the hospital.

“It is very important to note that no decision was made at today’s meeting and no recommendation from Trust Board has gone to the Department and Minister.

“While intensive recruitment efforts will continue, we also have to prepare for a future in which these do not prove successful. This planning will involve working very closely with our surgical team, our HSC colleagues and the Department to consider and develop clinical pathways for patients served by South West Acute Hospital who require this service.

“No matter the outcome, however, it is important to stress that elective surgery at the hospital will continue and there would be minimal to no impact on the other existing services at South West Acute Hospital.”

Western Trust Chief Executive Neil Guckian said:

“The province wide Review of General Surgery, which was published by Department of Health In June, highlighted the difficulties of maintaining the workforce for emergency general surgery at sites with a lower patient turnover in terms of rotas, succession planning, skill mix, supporting services and disciplines, best practice and maintaining quality care. It also stressed the potential for expanding elective (planned) surgery on these smaller sites. This would result in more patients being served than ever before. The South West Acute Hospital would make an excellent regional elective centre. The Trust is determined to make that vision a reality and has been working with the Department on plans for an elective overnight stay centre at South West Acute Hospital.

“I am very aware that the situation with emergency surgery will be deeply concerning to patients and staff. It’s not a position we want to be in but we have to plan ahead and be up front with the public about what that planning involves. I ask everyone to work with us constructively.”