An imminent staffing crisis in maternity services at South West Acute Hospital - as revealed by this newspaper last month - is being averted according to the Western Health and Social Care Trust.

Following a question from The Impartial Reporter asking if the appointment of some junior doctors to Obstetrics and Gynaecology had resolved the short term recruitment challenges being faced in maternity services the Trust issued a statement.

In it a spokesperson explained that following “continued efforts” by the Trust to address “workforce challenges within maternity services” at the South West Acute Hospital “the gaps in medical staffing are currently being filled.”

Meanwhile a meeting was held last week between the Trust’s Chief Executive, Dr Anne Kilgallen, and a range of politicians and community groups where she moved to allay fears that there was a threat to maternity services.

At the meeting, that was for invited guests only and closed to the press, including this newspaper, the Chief Executive committed the Trust to a “partnership approach to the future development of health and care services across Fermanagh and in South West Acute Hospital”.

Any change in approach could bring about significant changes to how services are delivered in the county.

This new co-operative approach is known as a ‘pathfinder initiative’ and is modelled on a similar venture involving Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry.

However, when asked by this newspaper the Trust revealed that there is no timeframe for the completion of this process.

“There is no agreed timescale at this point. The Trust will meet with the Department of Health in the month of August and thereafter engage with stakeholders to agree a Terms of Reference for this work.”

In statement from the Trust concerning last week’s meeting Dr Anne Kilgallen, said: “I believe passionately that the South West Acute Hospital and its staff is an asset for the community and for the region.

“I have committed to staff that we will work together to ensure that services meet the needs of this community in a safe and sustainable way,” she said.

This process will include consideration of the contribution that South West Acute can make as part of the Health and Social Care (HSC) system as well as its local importance and will involve a period of consultation.

“This is a step on a journey and I do not expect there to be any immediate change. Building the relationships necessary to engage people will take time.

“However, I hope that people will find that they have a real opportunity to shape a legacy for the next era of health and care in the Fermanagh area,” Dr Kilgallen stated.

The Trust will engage with all stakeholders in the coming weeks and months and welcome input from all parties.