Over 80 people attended a meeting (pictured below) organised by the Fermanagh Save our Services lobby group with the meeting hearing that the Fermanagh and Omagh District Council needed to “step forward” and launch a “corporate campaign” to fight to save the stroke unit at South West Acute Hospital.

The meeting was held as a result of the Department of Health’s consultation into the future of stroke services in Northern Ireland that was released in recent weeks. The consultation puts forward six options on the future, four of which would see the closure of the stroke unit at South West Acute Hospital.

There are several other lobby groups in Fermanagh working to raise public awareness around the issue of stroke services with Save Our Stroke Services a driving force behind the last public mobilisation against prospective change to stroke services in 2017.

Donal O’Cófaigh, a spokesperson for Fermanagh Save Our Services, said that the meeting held last week was “very well attended”.

“It was intended to be a commencement to raise awareness of the threat that exists because I still think some people are not aware of the full ramifications of what could happen,” he said.

During the meeting there was a presentation with several key arguments made against the four recommendations that would see the closure of SWAH’s stroke unit.

“A study is needed around some of the arguments that are being made in the consultation, particularly to do with geography and the use of the air ambulance as a viable alternative which we feel are completely groundless. They need to be exposed and dissected,” O’Cófaigh stated before adding that there is also a need to go “door to door” to get people engaged:

“There also needs to be a ground campaign to be waged which will involve getting as many people as possible to engage with the consultation process,” he said while also revealing that the meeting felt that the Fermanagh and Omagh District Council needed to do more:

“The Council need to step forward in a way that they haven’t done to date in terms of defending local services. It needs to be a corporate campaign,” O’Cófaigh said.

He also alluded to a court ruling regarding the Mallusk incinerator in which the High Court blocked the building of the incinerator stating that senior civil servant, Peter May, had no power to approve the planning application.

“That ruling means that there is a special onus on unelected officials in departments to listen to the results of consultations and act upon them, there is an actual legal responsibility on their part now.”