The Department of Health (DoH) is carrying out a public consultation which will lead to changing how stroke services are delivered throughout Northern Ireland.

In four out of the six potential outcomes listed in the consultation papers, the South West Acute Hospital (SWAH) will lose some critical stroke services.

Stephen McAloon is the chairman and founder of Save Our Stroke Services, a Fermanagh based campaign group aimed at preventing vital stroke services leaving the SWAH.

Now aged 64, Stephen suffered a stroke when he was 54 years old.

He was in his office and about to make a phone call when he collapsed on the floor.

Stephen said: “My whole left side was numb. I realised then it was something serious.

“I scrambled onto my right side and was able to pull the mobile phone off the table.

“But there was no phone signal, so I crawled to the door and got outside to make a call to my partner to get an ambulance right away.”

Stephen went straight to the Erne Hospital, as it was then, and was seen within an hour of his stroke.

He continued: “One of the things I remember is them saying ‘this boy’s for Belfast’.”

“Obviously, to get the thrombolysis injection I had to get to Belfast within that three and a half/four-hour period of the stroke which wasn’t possible.

“They ran out of time. My recovery may have been 100 per cent better if I got the injection.”

The SWAH is now able to provide thrombolysis injections but Stephen is fearful that the outcome of the DoH’s consultation process will be that this provision will be taken away from the hospital.

He said: “They’re (DoH) saying they’ll keep SWAH as acute care, but it has to be hyperacute care to carry out the thrombolysis injection.

“I presume that will be taken away. The nearest treatment will be Belfast or Derry. This will just be a rehab place. That’s our thinking on it.

“This will be very unfair on the people in Fermanagh, especially in the far end of it.

“We need stroke services here. We are a rural area. People aren’t going to make it to hospital in time and they are going to die. People will lose their lives.”

While the DoH says the process is about improving stroke services throughout Northern Ireland, Stephen thinks it’s about money.

“We have a grade A unit. We don’t need improvement of care. The Royal is only a grade C. Bring the people to us,” he said.

Save Our Stroke Services engage with people throughout Fermanagh to help them fill out the consultation papers and provide feedback on stroke service provision.

Stephen added: “The last pre-consultation we got 3,000 signatures I think we will have the same amount this time around. We can’t tell people what to say but we help them fill in the forms.

“We’re saying to people, ‘this is what we think, but if you think differently, write it down’.”

Stephen says Save Our Stroke Services has engaged with all the political parties to try and gain their support.

The group’s stroke advice centre in Enniskillen is open from Monday to Friday.

Stephen said: “This week we’ll also be out three or four nights in different parts of the county.

“We went to Lisnaskea on Thursday and got 300 people in during the day from 10am to 2pm.

“It burns you out completely. I switched off at the weekend there but I’m back at it again this week.”

The consultation process is due to conclude in by July 19, 2019 however it is not known when the DoH will make their decision regarding which outcome it will pursue.

Stephen said if the DoH’s decision goes against them “there’s going to be a big row about it from Fermanagh people”.