The Department fully recognises the importance of South West Acute Hospital (SWAH) to the people of Fermanagh and Tyrone and to Northern Ireland's hospital network.
The first duty of any health system is to provide safe care and the Department is satisfied that the Western Trust's decision to temporarily suspend the service has been taken on public safety grounds, due to a lack of consultant general surgeons.
The mitigations put in place by the Trust will be closely monitored by the Department, including the transport arrangements for patients requiring treatment in other hospitals.
The future for emergency general surgery at South West Acute Hospital will now be the subject of a public consultation. Any permanent decision to cease emergency general surgery will require approval from the Department and Health Minister.
The Department can reassure the local population on South West Acute Hospital's future. It is a vital part of our hospital network and will very much remain so.
We can confirm that the Department is working with the Trust to make the hospital Northern Ireland's third Elective Overnight Stay Centre, following earlier announcements on the Mater Hospital in Belfast and Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry.
This will help the local population to receive better and quicker planned surgical care, and also help the whole region. It is expected to increase the number of operations and patients at South West Acute Hospital.