As the South West Acute Hospital (SWAH) celebrated its 10th anniversary the hospital’s Assistant Medical Director said they are “poised to take advantage of any changes in the future”.

Opened on June 21, 2012, the SWAH went into operation and has since provided acute services to those in Fermanagh and West Tyrone.

Professor Ronan O’Hare has been there since the start and has seen the many achievements and challenges the hospital has faced. This included the transfer of patients from the old Erne Hospital to the SWAH.

“There was a six-week handover period from when the contractor allowed us access into the building until we opened on June 21 and we transferred all the patients from the old Erne Hospital across in one day and I am not aware of any other hospital in the UK that has done that and done it so successfully, so that was a major achievement,” he said.

Other achievements include the hundreds of thousands of people who have been treated at the Emergency Department, the thousands who have undergone surgery as well as the role of the hospital in preparing for the G8 summit.

The formation of the hospital management team in 2016 was another achievement and the expansion of consultant numbers and junior staff across all specialities is also high on the list: “Really it has enabled us to provide a high-quality standard of care. And that has been facilitated by the building itself in its structure, but also its staff.”

The building and the staff were pushed to the limit over the last two and a half years due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and Professor O’Hare admits it has been the most challenging period for the SWAH, but a challenge they rose to: “While we were stretched and it put a significant burden on the hospital and the staff, it didn’t break us and we were able to cope and deliver healthcare throughout that period.

“And it is a tribute to the staff themselves and adherence to public health advice both within the hospital and outside in their own lives that we had one of the lowest infection rates of staff themselves in the UK and that comes down to the hospital management team the clinical pathways put in place and the staff themselves participating in the development of those pathways and adherence to public health guidance.”

As Northern Ireland moves out of the pandemic and the Health Minister looks at ways of reshaping the Health Service here, Professor O’Hare said it has to be done as it is not “fit for purpose” and the SWAH will have a big part to play.

“The health service as it is currently isn’t fit for purpose and that is demonstrated in extensive long waiting lists. There needs to be change and the South West Acute has in the past evidenced itself that it can change and we are poised to take advantage of any changes in the future. Where the future of the South West Acute goes depends and rightly so on where the regional direction of travel takes us.

“You cannot work in silos. You cannot forget we are part of a much bigger picture and that a lot of the changes in practice and reconfiguration are based on data and outcomes and we want to always strive to provide a quality service of the highest standard.

“We have to adapt to that and the community will have to adapt to that and it is not something you can shirk away from, it’s a much greater responsibility we have to take.

“All I can do is reassure the community there is a significant future in health care in the South West Acute going forward,” concluded Professor O’Hare.

To mark the 10 year milestone staff held a special thanksgiving service led by the hospital chaplains. They welcomed the three babies born on the day the hospital opened; Shea Maguire, Ava Crowell and Hannah Shannon, along with their parents and the midwifery staff who helped deliver them ten years ago, to help them cut a 10th birthday cake.