Neil Guckian, chief executive of the Western Health and Social Care Trust, has hit out at critics of South West Acute Hospital’s (SWAH) handling of the emergency surgery crisis.
He headed the medical and administrative panel at a special meeting convened by Fermanagh and the Omagh District Council for members to seek answers. The meeting was held within hours of the announcement of the temporary withdrawal of emergency surgery, though it was unclear when. A meeting was scheduled.
Guckian began by scathing the criticism he received as the situation unfolded, explaining that he was speaking to members as chief executive and accountant.
“Despite media reports, I am proud of the Trust and Council’s involvement.
“On October 18, we had a lengthy session on concerns about emergency surgical vulnerabilities in SWAH.
“Over three hours, my senior team and I fully answered all the questions that were posed openly and honestly,” he said.
Guckian highlighted the Council’s Health and Social Care Committee as “an established engagement platform between our organizations.”
He continues: This was agreed prior to the meeting and the Chair made the decision to enter a closed session. ”
Referring to correspondence recently received from the Council, including a letter concerning a lack of consultation, an equality impact assessment, local certification, or a motion to consider possible adverse public health and human rights impacts, Mr Gacchian said: He said: Somewhat surprised given our very detailed briefing. ”
“until today [November 17] There were no approved proposals to consult. We’ve been highlighting vulnerabilities in our service, but that doesn’t mean we have any suggestions for change.
“It also requires ministerial or undersecretary approval. However, we have attempted pre-consultation engagement with a number of stakeholders, including the Council.
“Now we have a proposal. [for] support from [the] Board of directors. ”
Guckian said it will address public health concerns. [from some of the] Council”.
“These changes, while disappointing for many, improve patient outcomes.”
Guckian referred to the trust board’s resignation and the second council letter on a motion calling for the health ministry to take special action in the region.
“In my 25 years as Trust Board Director and Chief Executive Officer, this was unprecedented. We are dealing with a very difficult situation.
“Such a motion would attack health and social care structures locally, harming everyone in the Trust, not just senior management.
“Motions like this could also prevent us from working together to advocate for the service,” Guckian said.
He drew attention to the comments of local councilors and the media. One of them, he said, has six surgeons at Altnagervin Hospital who are “active” to cover him on a rotating basis at SWAH.
“Then ignore the emotive language,” Gacchian said. “I can assure you that this is completely false information.
“The cited union has many members but not a single medical person. Altnagelvin has five general surgeons instead of six. must be resident.
“From Altnagervin, it cannot be safely covered due to distance and time required.
“We have assisted two surgeons to cover the SWAH roster, but this requires careful management and can only be supplemented due to their existing on-call commitments at Altnagelvin. ”
In closing, Gacchian said:
“Night elective centers are being viewed by senior clinicians as the final piece of our strategy to address this issue, especially given the locality of SWAH and allowing us to focus on general surgery.”