The leader of the DUP, Arlene Foster, has said that it is “absolutely critical” that the Stroke Unit in South West Acute Hospital (SWAH) is retained following the current consultation from the Department of Health.

Ms. Foster was speaking as she attended the Fermanagh and West Tyrone Health Summit at the Ardhowen Theatre in Enniskillen on Tuesday afternoon.

The event was centered around the Fermanagh and West Tyrone Pathfinder Project which has been taking place over the past number of months.

Speaking to the Impartial Reporter Ms. Foster was unequivocal in her support for the retention of stroke services at SWAH:

“It is absolutely critical that the stroke services stay within the South West Acute Hospital. I have looked at the consultation document and from my perspective there has to be at least five stroke services across Northern Ireland and of course that will include South West Acute Hospital,” she said before highlighting the strong clinical performance of the unit at SWAH:

“That is the geography piece, but it is also one of the best performing units in the United Kingdom and that is something that we should be shouting about and something that we should be incredibly proud about.”

Ms. Foster went on to say that the county would unite behind the issue of stroke services and “fight” for its future:

“Health is one of those subject matters that goes right across the community, and it doesn’t matter if you live in Belleek or Lisbellaw you care about your health service and I think people want us to very much fight for the health service.”

Speaking on the conference itself the former First Minister for Northern Ireland said it was an important event:

“Absolutely delighted to have Professor Bengoa here in Fermanagh so he can engage, obviously with the clinicians and the professionals but also hear from ourselves in the community about what we really expect from our health service.”

Invited guests including health and social care experts, members of the community and public representatives, attended the event.