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Former ‘County’ consultant hails new hospital as unique facility across British Isles

Thursday, 11 May 2017

THE new Enhanced Local Hospital and Primary Care Complex in Omagh is a unique facility across the UK and Ireland which needs to be fully appreciated, a highly-respected former consultant at Tyrone County Hospital has said.
Dr Clive Russell - who held many roles within the hospital over a 30-year span, before retiring in 2009 - was speaking to the Tyrone Constitution after being invited for a walk-through visit around the new facility which is due to open next month.
The development - costing in the region of £105m - includes 38 consulting rooms which will provide adult clinics for a number of specialties, such as sight, hearing and diabetes.
“What I noticed during my visit was the sophistication of the new equipment available in the hospital," Dr Russell said.
“It has quite a Scandinavian style about it - it's full of colour. The beautiful assessment area for children stood out for me, but the hospital will cater for so many people throughout its various facilities.
“It is a completely unique facility on these islands and I feel not enough people appreciate this. For the first time ever across the UK and Ireland, we will have GPs, out-of-hours, mental health and dental services and much, much more, all on one site.
“To my knowledge, not one hospital on British Isles can boast as many facilities on one site. The new hospital is going to be a complete success, I have no doubt about that. I would love to work there, unfortunately I'm too old now!"
Dr Russell also slammed anyone who slammed the new hospital is a "glorified health centre".
He said: "I was deeply annoyed when I heard that jibe. It was a very cruel thing for the staff to hear and, to be honest, it was an insult to the past and current staff as well as to the people of Omagh."
While Dr Russell admits it's a "shame" the Tyrone County Hospital has to close, he feels the building is no longer fit for purpose.
Sell-by date
“It's a shame the staff and patients have to leave the Tyrone County Hospital site but in truth, it's past its sell-by date. You can't continue to spend money on a building which is not fit for purpose any longer."
Having worked in the hospital for three decades, Dr Russell has plenty of memories - both highs and lows - but it is telling that he remains a regular visitor even eight years after retiring.
“I just love visiting, it was a terrific place to work. There was always a fantastic spirit amongst the staff and I'm confident there still is today.
“Having spent 30 years developing skills, both my own and those of the staff, I'm proud to say the staff still provide the same high standard of service I carried out before I retired.
“When I first started at the County, the hospital was going through a renaissance. Most of the consultants were elderly and many had retired and weren't replaced. Over the next four to five years there were big changes made and every team was enhanced.
“Thanks to the generosity of the community we were able to purchase a lot of cardiac equipment. Back then patients had to travel to Belfast for tests, which can now be routinely done in Omagh on a daily basis. Our idea was to prevent people from travelling to access equipment, which could be purchased and used locally."
Though Dr Russell says he loved his time at the County, he felt there was a "dark cloud hanging over the hospital", due to the uncertainty over its future.
“I had only been there for four months when rumours began that the hospital may close," he explained.
“For 30 years of my career, hospitals in Northern Ireland were either being threatened of being closed or services reduced.
“But we marched through the streets of Omagh to keep the hospital open. Unfortunately we lost services one by one. We always stood together though.
“And even though the acute services disappeared, other services still exist in Omagh which are probably still as important.
“Many people in Omagh felt very cross at that time and some thought we'd end up with nothing, but we still have a fantastic service here, which we can be grateful for and it's only going to get better."

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