Sinn Féin’s health spokesperson, and former Chair of the Stormont Health Committee, has said presenting the recent collapse of emergency surgery in the South West Acute Hospital (SWAH) as ‘transformation’ undermines genuine health transformation.

Colm Gildernew, MLA for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, said what has happened at SWAH is “a collapse of service – it is not transformation”.

He continued: “There was no engagement from the Western Trust with the community or staff on removing these services.

“The Trust have said publicly and privately that the withdrawal of emergency surgery from the SWAH is temporary, and we need to see their plans for recruiting the required surgeons to the SWAH set out publicly.

“Presenting the temporary withdrawal as transformation undermines the important work of transforming the health service. It is also unfair to those in the community who, in the absence of information from the Trust, are genuinely concerned for the future of the SWAH.”

Meanwhile, DUP MLA Deborah Erskine said she recognised the concern of the community following the news but said the most frustrating thing about the announcement is that has come about through a lack of staff, and not money or political will.

“The issue with surgery has been there since 2018. Various recruitment drives have happened since then. We have to recognise that we cannot lurch from crisis to crisis, but have a sustainable way of operating.

“The Trust should have levelled with the public here before last week, to explain what emergency surgery is, and to help everyone understand the situation. It is failure that this didn’t happen.”

Mrs. Erskine welcomed the statement from surgical consultants this week explaining why the move is a positive one. She continued: “Having worked on this matter, I note the assurances again from the Trust and the Department, that the SWAH will not lose its acute status, and that making the SWAH an elective care hub will secure the future of the hospital, similar to Lagan Valley.”