The Western Health and Social Care Trust has confirmed notes are taken at the public consultation events in respect of the South West Acute Hospital (SWAH) emergency surgery situation, however it insisted these have not been sought by Fermanagh and Omagh District Council.

During a recent meeting, members discussed a response from the Western Trust’s Chief Executive, Neil Guckian, around comments he made about the activities by the campaign group, Save Our Acute Services (SOAS), which were robustly refuted.

Mr. Guckian also criticised the conduct of some members of the public attending the consultation meetings, to the extent the Western Trust requested police to attend thereafter.

The PSNI were asked to clarify who had requested the attendance of officers, and on what grounds, and if any complaints and/or arrests were made at said meetings.

In response, a PSNI spokesperson replied: “Local Neighbourhood Police Teams were in attendance at a number of planned consultation events across County Fermanagh in recent weeks to ensure the safety of all involved.

“There have been no complaints at any of the events so far.”

The statement added the Western Trust “asked police to engage with them and following meetings we agreed to deploy a small number of resources”, continuing: “This was due to the large numbers attending.”

The move was slammed by councillors and SOAS, with members also criticising the use of public resources.

In response to concerns raised over his remarks, Mr. Guckian replied: “While uncertain of the exact detail of any such alleged claims made, I would like to highlight my regret that anyone has been displeased with any comments I have made at the recent public consultation events.”

He continued: “There is no doubt the public-facing consultation events proved to be very challenging for everyone, and I am fully understanding of all the concerns which have been so apparent in light of what was a very difficult but essential decision made by the Trust in respect of Emergency General Surgery … The Trust have a legal obligation to go through this public consultation in full.

“I must also point out that there was highly-unacceptable behaviour displayed by some individuals at the public consultation events.

“This was very unhelpful and was very disappointing to both myself and many of our staff.”

This continues to be disputed by councillors, SOAS members and the public.

Councillor Diana Armstrong, Ulster Unionist, understood the consultation meetings are minuted, but claimed “despite requests [to see said minutes] we are still waiting”.

She continued: “I imagine what was happening in the room [at such public consultations] would be minuted. Those minutes are still outstanding.”

The Western Trust was asked why the minutes of the public consultations had not yet been provided to the Council, to which a spokesperson replied: “The Trust has had scribes present at all consultation events … to take notes of the questions and feedback from those attending.

“The Trust consultation ends in April, and notes from all engagement events will form part of the Trust’s outcome report for consideration at the Trust Board meeting in summer, 2023.”

However, the spokesperson added: “The Trust has not received a request from Fermanagh and Omagh District Council to share minutes from the SWAH Emergency General Surgery consultation events.”


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