FIRST Minister, Michelle O'Neill, met this week with members of the campaign group, SOAS (Save Our Acute Services). 

Representatives from the group, which was set up to fight the removal of Emergency General Surgery at South West Acute Hospital (SWAH), recently travelled to Stormont to meet with the First Minister. 

Following the meeting, a SOAS spokesperson said that Ms. O'Neill "completely" understood the concerns raised regarding the SWAH. 

The group has now met with all political parties to raise the issue of reduced services, including Emergency Surgery, at the local hospital in Enniskillen.

It has vowed to continue to meet with political representatives in the coming months. 

The high-profile meeting follows findings from SOAS that show an average time of over 40 hours for emergency surgical patients to get a bed in Altnagelvin, which is the nearest hospital to Enniskillen. 

The campaign was able to substantiate its statistical evidence with a specific example of an 85-year-old man from Enniskillen who – despite being assessed as an emergency – went through ‘double ED’ twice in January 2024 having to wait 29 hours and 35 hours to get from triage in SWAH to a ward bed in Altnagelvin.

Spokesperson for the campaign, Donal O’Cofaigh, said: “These figures make for genuinely disturbing reading.

"This kind of extended timescale is reflected anecdotally in the patient stories that we regularly hear. We must continue to highlight this.

"The fact that it can take – on average – over 40 hours to get from presentation at SWAH ED to a ward bed in Altnagelvin is undoubtedly grossly unfair to patients from the South West region.

"No-one else in Northern Ireland has to go through this ‘double ED’ journey. This would not be necessary if a sustainable service of emergency general surgery with appropriate rota cover was returned to SWAH."

Mr. O'Cofaigh added: "Such a return would also serve to reinforce the development of the Elective Overnight Stay Centre in SWAH – freeing up desperately needed theatre capacity in our hospital network."