The Save Our Acute Service (SOAS) campaign group will release a five-point plan today, Thursday, which they believe can turn around the fortunes of the South West Acute Hospital (SWAH).

At a public meeting in Fermanagh House on Monday night, representatives from the pressure group gave a presentation to members of the public to outline their next steps in their fight to retain services at the hospital, and also presented information on the effects of the loss of services at the SWAH.

The group say a “New SWAH” will not only secure better care for the community, but will also be a driver of job growth and career opportunities in the south west region.

SOAS Chairperson, Reggie Ferguson, said: “We thought to try to keep the momentum going, we would have a public meeting tonight just to let [the community] know what’s been happening and where we would hope to go next.

“The [Western] Trust have said specifically that they want to know – they want ideas from us.

“They’ve run out of ideas and they want us to give them ideas as to what to do next, and we’re very happy to do that and to maybe send them off into a gentle retirement,” he claimed.

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Mr. Ferguson added: “The main thing is that we’re still here; we haven’t gone away; this is not a done deal – we can change this.”

He further said the people of Fermanagh would not be treated as “second-class citizens”.

The overall statement from SOAS shown to those in attendance read: “It is our right to have as a core principle within our NHS that every citizen in Northern Ireland should live within one hour of a Type 1 emergency department.

“We demand equal access to safe urgent and emergency care services for every citizen in NI.

“SOAS are entirely in favour of the development of an NHS-staffed, consultant-led overnight elective centre.

“We believe a thriving elective centre will complement the delivery of sustainable urgent and emergency care.

“We call for an unequivocal commitment confirming the permanent reinstatement of full acute services to our South West Acute Hospital.”

Impartial Reporter: SWAH Public Meeting, Fermanagh House.

Helen Hamill gave an update on what SOAS had been working on in recent months, which included meeting with elected representatives and leaders from the main political parties in Northern Ireland.

She said the group had also built up a level of trust with patients and staff at the hospital who have relayed their concerns to SOAS, and also criticised the senior management in the Western Trust in trying to recruit for consultant surgeons at the SWAH.

“The workforce management is the same workforce management, we would be led to believe, would be able to actually staff the elective hub, and I don’t know who’d they staff it with, or what they would staff it with, because they still haven’t advertised for consultant surgeon jobs down here,” she claimed.

Robert Patton, who gave a brief outline on the SOAS vision and its five-point plan, said a “different narrative” about the SWAH needed to be put out.

“Really, what we have to do from here on, is we have got to take responsibility for our own future down here.

“And we’ve got to look for or engineer a change of strategy, and this is what we are talking about now.”

Continuing, Mr. Patton said: “We’ve a lot of work to do to move it [SOAS’ plan] forward. We have to realise this whole consultation process for the hospital is at a crossroads.

“We have the opportunity to instigate real change for the benefit of the whole population and our children and grandchildren. So, let’s step up and embrace it.”

Councillor Donal O’Cofaigh, CCLA, who is also part of SOAS, wrapped up the presentation by telling those in attendance that there needed to be a “grassroots mobilisation” behind the five-point plan which is focused on the restoration of urgent and emergency surgery at the SWAH.

SOAS will launch their five-point plan at 2pm today, Thursday, March 16 in Fermanagh House.