Emergency general surgery at South West Acute hospital to be suspended
The suspension will apply from December 18, following a further resignation within the general surgery team.
The Western Health Trust previously spoke out about problems recruiting surgeons for the Co Fermanagh hospital.
It is understood patients requiring emergency general surgery from that date will be transferred to the closest major hospitals, such as Craigavon Area in Co Armagh or Altnagelvin in Londonderry.
The Department of Health said it 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," it said in a statement.
Geraldine McKay, Western Trust director of acute services, confirmed the recommendation was agreed for an unplanned temporary suspension of emergency general surgery following a special meeting of the Trust's board on Thursday.
She described the move as "necessary to protect public health/safety".
"Despite our previous and ongoing efforts to recruit, we have not been successful to date in securing the necessary consultant workforce," she said.
"The Trust is therefore now unable to maintain the required workforce to sustain and deliver a safe emergency (unplanned) general surgical service to our population from the South West Acute Hospital (SWAH).
"Put simply, we cannot provide an emergency general surgery service without a consultant surgical team in place to provide the required 24/7 cover.
"The current rota for emergency general surgery will be maintained up until December 4 2022."
Ms McKay said planned elective surgery at the hospital will continue, and that the emergency department will continue to operate as usual on a 24/7 basis.
"There will be minimal to no impact on the other existing services at SWAH," she said.
"We have developed and will implement alternative clinical patient pathways to mitigate risk and protect the safety of people needing to avail of emergency general surgery services after the current rota ends, and are focused on minimising the impact of this temporary arrangement on the hospital's acute services."
Western Trust chief executive Neil Guckian spoke about longer term plans.
"We need to fully utilise all of our theatre capacity across South West Acute Hospital to undertake more elective procedures, and we are delighted to work with the Department to develop SWAH as an overnight elective surgery centre to benefit the growing numbers of patients on our waiting lists," he said.
"I want to reassure the local community that the Trust is fully committed to developing and enhancing South West Acute Hospital as an essential part of the Western Trust and regional hospital network.
"SWAH has a very busy emergency department, fantastic facilities and a wide range of very vibrant specialities.
"We ask for public support and understanding as we continue to work through the challenges to develop a solution that meets the future needs of our population.
"We will be carrying out a full public consultation on this temporary change including seeking views on how emergency general surgery might be restored, and will outline the details of consultation process in the coming weeks."