Selling Fermanagh as a place to live and work and a radical shift in thinking when it comes to the education and training of health care professionals are two of the key areas that as need to be tackled to ensure the long term prosperity of health care in the area.

That is according to Ronan O’Hare, assistant medical director at South West Acute Hospital.

During the past year the Western Health and Social Care Trust has admitted to facing serious challenges in the area of recruitment. A crisis point was reached in the summer of 2018 in maternity services while it was reported by this paper last month that there is a chronic shortage of social workers in the Enniskillen area.

Looking at some of the long-term solutions for health care in the are Dr. O’Hare is adamant that as a community we must become more self-sufficient:

“We have a lot of brilliant staff who come to work within the Trust, but we also have to be producing our own workforce. We need to be training nurses and doctors and social workers and all the other staff that we need to ensure we can have the services we need,” he said before adding:

“We want to get in to schools and really get the message out there that a career in health is worthwhile and something to strive for.”

Dr. O Hare also believes however that there must be a sea change in attitude across a number of different public sectors within Northern Ireland, beginning with third level education:

“The universities have to step up to the plate. It is as simple as that. We must make it easier for people from this area to go and train to work in our health service. People here pay taxes and they deserve a system of education that allows them to train in the jobs that they want. We have to make it easier for people to go back and study as mature students, to use the hospital here as their training hospital because those people will stay and work here.”

In terms of an overall recruitment policy Dr. O’Hare believes that in Fermanagh specifically there is not enough done to promote the positives of life within the county and once again he sees the need for a joined up approach to ensure that Fermanagh is not only seen as a viable place to work but a hugely positive place to work:

“We don’t do a good job at selling ourselves. Look at how beautiful Fermanagh is. Look at the quality of schools that we have, every single school we have is high quality. The quality of life is better and we have to start getting that message across to people that Fermanagh is a great place to work.”

Dr. O’Hare has been one of a number of Trust officials who have been taking part in the Pathfinder initiative, which is meeting with various groups and members of the public before putting together a strategy for the future of health care in Fermanagh and West Tyrone:

“We have been to places like Roslea where the services are not good enough for the people. Where they have to travel for basic healthcare. And we have to change that. We have to look at ways we can meet the needs of people in the community,” he said before adding:

“We simply have to be better. There is no other choice. There is no point in going in to something like this unless you are going to make things better. I think people have been very reasonable but also very willing to engage and actually talk with us about what is needed. About what their expectations are. Because everyone’s expectation for health care is different and it is important that we know what people in the community actually think and want.”