Ulster Unionist MLA Robin Swann has again raised concerns with the Health Minister following new doubts as to why children from here are continuing to be sent to England and the Republic of Ireland for cardiac procedures. The North Antrim was speaking after he recently received correspondence from the Edwin Poots in which the Minister corrected a statement he previously made in the Assembly.
Robin Swann, who recently returned from Birmingham with his young son following a cardiac procedure said;
“At present many more children requiring cardiac procedures are travelling to England and the Republic of Ireland than are being treated in Belfast. Last year alone the number of paediatric cardiac procedures carried out on children in Belfast was 58 compared to 74 having to travel outside of the Province. That equates to 74 very young and very often vulnerable children having to be moved to new environments and 74 sets of parents being taken away from their natural support network of families and friends.
This unfortunate situation only arose following the introduction of stricter criteria by the Public Health Agency and the Health and Social Care Trust. At the time the decision to restrict cardiac services in Northern Ireland came as a surprise to many and was widely criticised by parents of children who were awaiting a procedure, as well those parents of children who were fortunate enough to have been just in time to experience the sheer professionalism and commitment of the staff in Belfast.
If there was a question mark over the safety of the procedures carried out in Belfast then the decision would have of course been understandable, but that was not the case. The Ulster Unionist Party believes that the decision was mistaken and not based on a sound medical basis.
In an apparent rolling back of that decision the Department of Health began asserting that an independent assessment of the decision to restrict procedures in Northern Ireland found that it was wrong and even the Minister told me a number of weeks ago that he would be seeking answers form the ‘relevant bodies’ as to why a full service had not been resumed.
There was therefore a general expectation that the services were shortly going to be resumed, but that now appears very unlikely. Edwin Poots has since informed me that his comments in the Assembly last month were wrong and that in fact there was no independent assessment of the judgement. This latest disclosure from the Minister has only added further confusion to the matter and has left many parents seriously questioning the real motivation behind the decision to restrict services in Northern Ireland.
The Health Minister needs to come forward and say why the restrictions were placed on cardiac services here, on what grounds the decision was taken and finally, for how long is it going to last. It’s his responsibility to provide clarity on the matter and to date he has failed in his basic duties to do so.”