The new £276-million hospital outside Enniskillen has opened with all the bells and whistles of a modern health care facility. And along with en-suite rooms for every one of its 300-plus patient beds, the new hospital embeds a geographical anomaly that seems to hold mighty sway with officialdom in this part of Ireland.
That’s because the new facility is officially known as the South West Acute Hospital, a name that most residents of Fermanagh and Tyrone probably think would be better suited to a facility in Limerick or Kerry.
|South West's West Tyrone campus in the north west at Omagh.
But the name does join a growing pantheon of illustrious institutions centred on those northern counties. This includes South West College – with campuses in Omagh, Enniskillen, Dungannon and Cookstown.
There is also BT’s ubiquitous telephone directory for the ‘south west’ region, representing a terrible annual waste of trees for an early twentieth-century form of communications from the company that dominates telecommunications here. The scope of the ‘south-west’ phone directory extends from Belleek as far as Lurgan in the north east corner of Armagh. Those in the know will note that Lurgan is comfortably east of the River Bann.
So apart from being struck by the woeful lack of imagination in naming public institutions and services, here at the Frontier Post we have been wondering what the name of the new hospital signifies. That is, in terms of its location – beside Wolf Lough, which is between Enniskillen town and Trory Roundabout on the Irvinestown road – where exactly is it ‘south west’ of?
|Where exactly in the North is south, much less south west?
Such a fixation on place (with precise SatNav directions) could be required when the new facility will incorporate its planned teaching facilities. We are told that, apart from Queen’s University Belfast, this might also include link-ups with the medical faculty in NUI Galway. This raises the prospect that medics dispatched to the South West Acute Hospital might head off south in the direction of Ennis instead of north to the Border and Enniskillen unless provided with precise details.
In our search for a fixed point to determine the south-west nature of the new hospital, naturally we thought of Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland, seat of governance and administration. That seemed the natural place to look because it is where matters such as naming hospitals, further education colleges and phonebooks would undergo much high-powered deliberation and intensive examination before a final decision.
But no, Enniskillen town sits at 54.34 degrees latitude, against Belfast’s 54.37. By our reckoning, that puts the new facility on Wolf Lough at 54.35 – almost exactly west of Belfast Lough on the same line of latitude.
So could it be Derry city? No, the new hospital lies almost directly south of the historic centre for those living west of the Bann.
Then it struck us. The new hospital is perched almost on an exact southwest radiant from Omagh (latitude 54.596) in the projected catchment area for its patients. Omagh is actually where many argued – and still believe – the new hospital should have been located all along.
‘South West Acute Hospital’ – talk about rubbing salt in the wound!