SDLP Health Spokesperson Colin McGrath has expressed his concern at a reduction of cots in the neonatal unit at the South West Acute Hospital (SWAH) in Enniskillen.
The number of cots has been reduced from six to two for the last six months due to a shortage of neonatal nurses.
Mr McGrath said staff shortages were impacting the health service and its ability to function properly across the North.
South Down MLA Mr McGrath said:
“The current issues at the SWAH as a result of a failure to recruit the necessary neonatal nurses to function at full capacity is symptomatic of the problems being experienced in our health service across the North. We have seen various services at different locations cut back due to an inability to attract staff to carry out the work.
“The only way we are going to address these issues are through the transformation of our health service. We need to address the long-standing issues like a failure to attract staff in certain areas, an over reliance on agency and locum staff and fair pay for nurses. This all needs to play a part in reforming services so that we are able to ensure we have the adequate numbers of staff available so that we can offer patients the best experience possible.
“I accept that this process will involve significant challenges and require difficult decisions, but we also need to ensure that local hospitals, particularly in rural areas like the SWAH, are properly resourced to provide key services like neonatal care for the local population. We know what has to be done, but until the DUP end their boycott of our institutions we will be paralysed from taking action and people will continue to suffer.”
Councillor Adam Gannon said:
“Confirmation on the reduction of cots at the neonatal unit at the SWAH will cause significant concern locally, particularly among new or expectant mothers who may need to rely on these services. Staff and management at the hospital are doing their best in very difficult circumstances, but we cannot allow a situation where no neonatal staff are available, as we saw last month, to become a normal occurrence.
“Protecting services at the SWAH is one of the issues that inspired me to enter politics in the first place, and I will continue to work with the hospital to ensure that the voices of local people are heard on matters like this. The neonatal unit is a vitally important service for this community and many families have relied on the expert care they’ve provided. We must work together with the trust to ensure it is returned to fully capacity as soon as possible.”