Ulster Unionist MLA Robin Swann has strongly criticised Edwin Poots for the offhanded manner in which he announced that an international review group has found that retaining children’s surgical cardiac services in Belfast is ‘unsustainable’.
Robin Swann, who is Chair of the All Party Group on Congenital Heart Disease at Stormont, said;
“Given the vast level of engagement from various stakeholders, I would have expected the Minister to have a bit more courtesy than to make such an important revelation in response to a Topical Question planted by a Party colleague. By acting so tactlessly he has shown blatant indifference to the very real concerns of the families.
“In revealing only one aspect of the reviews finding, without saying whether or not he even agrees with it or without producing supporting evidence, elected representatives in the Assembly were unable to question the recommendation or seek clarity on the processes he has agreed. As a parent of a child who has undergone heart surgery in England there are many details that we need to see clarified.
“This part revelation of only one aspect of the international review body will come as a disappointment to the many families throughout Northern Ireland who rely and take comfort of having the service in Belfast, even if it is supported by Dublin based surgeons.
“I still believe the case for retaining the service in Belfast is clear, as are the potential consequences of it moving to a Dublin only service. There are many towns such as Ballymena in my own constituency which are a very significant distance from Dublin. In many cases the time it takes for a child to arrive at the hospital is absolutely key.
“Issues such as future care pathways for children who have already undergone surgery in England need to be resolved. As does the future of the staff who are currently based in Belfast. If the Minister ultimately accepts the findings of the international panel, will these staff for instance be expected to transfer to Dublin entirely? All the Minister has done today is add confusion to the matter.”