Dr. Anne Kilgallen, Chief Executive of the Western Health and Social Care Trust (WHSCT), has told the Impartial Reporter that she is the one “driving” the pathfinder initiative as the appointment of an independent chair to oversee the process has yet to take place.

“I am driving it. There is nothing more important to me than pathfinder,” Dr. Killgallen said in an interview with newspaper.

In July 2018 the Trust announced that it would be embarking on a Pathfinder initiative that would look at Health and Social Care across Fermanagh and West Tyrone.

This process would “seek to take a detailed honest look at what we are doing and whether we can do it better,” according to the WHSCT.

The first phase of the process was carried out under the leadership of Kieran Downey, Deputy Chief Executive of the WHSCT. This involved meeting with the community to get their thoughts on how health care could be improved.

Dr. Killgallen tsaid that the first phase of Pathfinder had identified specific areas that were of concern to individual communities throughout the areas: “Kieran Downey set a really fast pace. He went out and engaged with the community and a huge amount of info came back to us in terms of where there were gaps in services and also what services were working well,” she said, adding:

“A lot of the focus from that engagement was on the community and not necessarily the hospital. Issues like loneliness and mental health were consistently raised with us.”

Mr. Downey took planned retirement from the Trust at the end of June, which also coincided with the end of the first phase of pathfinder. In the minutes of the June Trust Board meeting Mr. Downey sought agreement from the board that an: “Appointment of an independent chair subject to Terms of Reference” take place.

Three months later that appointment has not taken place with Dr. Kilgallen telling the Impartial Reporter that at the end of the first phase there was “a sense of a pause”.

“I used it to reflect. And it is a different approach now, more measured. I want to take whatever time it needs, and that is in contrast to phase one.”

It is anticipated that an Independent Chair of Pathfinder will not be in place until at least the beginning of phase three in the process, with Dr. Killgallen admitting that it was a difficult role to fill but asserting that the right person had to be found. She said the Trust would be “open and transparent” about the process:

“It is very difficult to identify someone for that role. They can’t be too close (to the Trust). There is no specific timeframe in place but it’s essential to our work and it is in hand,” she said.

Phase two of Pathfinder is currently ongoing and consists of putting the structures in place to effect service change. Dr Killgallen explained that after hearing what the community had to say it was now vital that a “more purposeful conversation” was had in terms of how to put the “nuts and bolts in place”.

“We want to have an arrangement of involvement with the community. We need to design and develop a framework so that the involvement with the community is easier for us. This is not something that we have done before,” Dr. Kilgallen said.

In essence the Chief Executive argues that, before moving forward, it is better to ensure all the structures are in place to allow the Trust to make meaningful change so that “communities can feel that things are being done better” with Dr. Kilgallen statin that “another four to eight weeks of internal work” is needed before that framework would be completed.