The Western Health and Social Care Trust have reaffirmed their commitment to neonatal and maternity services in South West Acute Hospital.

The Trust will now look to recruiting Fermanagh expats internationally to fill gaps in the neonatal service.

Speaking during a media briefing on Tuesday, Mrs. Deirdre Mahon, Director of Women’s and Children’s services in the Western Trust said: “I would like to start out by reassuring any expectant parents and the wider public that the Trust is absolutely committed to work through our current staffing challenges in the neonatal unit at South West Acute and indeed, support the neonatal services and maternity services across not just the whole trust, but the whole of Northern Ireland.”

Explaining the recent shortage of staff which has led to challenges for the unit in SWAH, Mrs. Mahon alluded to the challenging nature of the work, she said: “As you can imagine, working with little fragile babies for a lot of people is very stressful. It is actually hard to get people to work in this speciality, but the result is that is that we are having great difficulty providing adequate nursing cover for many shifts.”

“But this is also a regional and national shortage of trained neonatal nurses. There is a neonatal network in Northern Ireland and this issue has been escalated to the PHA and the Health and Social Care Board.

“We're doing everything in our power to actively to try and recruit and address gaps in our workforce to ensure a safe and sustainable neonatal service.”

The Trust is now looking to those who have left the shores of this island to see if they can play a role in working the service.

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Mrs. Mahon explained: “We're going to have a theme of ‘Do you want to come home?’ We think there should be local people from Fermanagh who may be moved to Australia or Canada or England, Scotland, Wales or wider who can maybe move back.

“We have engaged a recruitment company to help us do that. The Health and Social Care board and the Public Health Agency are working with us on this project forward to see what else we can do.”

The Trust also planS to upskill the work force that is in place.

Mrs. Mahon continued: “ We have also put in place [a strategy] trying to grow our own. We’re trying to identify four nurses who could maybe train up in the speciality. The challenge we have is freeing them up because we're very challenged right through the hospital, both in Altnagelvin and the South West. A lot of nurses are tired by the end of Covid-19. People who maybe would have stayed on are retiring.”

Elswehere, tonight (Thursday) at 7.30pm LAMP Fermanagh will hold an emergency community meeting in relation to the neonatal crisis via Zoom, all are invited and details can be found on the LAMP Fermanagh Facebook page.