'Health situation a mess' – McLaughlin

Published Wednesday, 03 September 2014
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The chair of Stormont’s health committee Maeve McLaughlin has described the current situation in the health service as a “mess”.

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The Sinn Féin MLA made the comments during an emergency hearing of the committee on Wednesday.

However, DUP Health Minister Edwin Poots accused her republican party of "undermining and attacking" his department because of its stance on welfare reform.

The committee hearing had been convened after Health Minister, Edwin Poots outlined in a letter, the millions he needs in order to avoid the "most devastating impacts" of cost-cutting proposals for health care in the region.

His department faces a £140m funding deficit and during the session the chief medical officer, Dr Michael McBride warned that people would have to wait longer for treatment, leaving them in pain and aggravating their conditions.

The senior doctor said numerous services including cancer treatments, stroke prevention and drugs for chronic conditions like multiple sclerosis may be threatened with the funding shortfall.

Edwin Poots said the warning over reduced services was not "scaremongering" but a "factual analysis of those areas where expenditure has not yet been committed".

He told Maeve McLaughlin: "The position of your party is hurting innocent people, it is hurting people who need care and it is hurting people who work in the health system.

"Your party has behaved despicably. They have attacked the health service and undermined it in a way that has put me in a wholly untenable situation because I cannot carry out the proposals to reduce the service.

"I am putting it to the Assembly that we need to ensure that we make the right decisions in and around health and if your party's priority is welfare stand up and say that.

"My party will have the priority of health and I won't shirk away from that."

I have identified a crunch point and I need the Assembly, Executive and this committee to back me to ensure we can continue to provide a world class health service.

Edwin Poots

Sinn Féin is refusing to endorse welfare reforms because of concern about the effect of "austerity cuts" on the most vulnerable.

This has resulted in the Westminster coalition, which argues the reforms are intended to help people out of the benefit trap and make work pay, withdrawing money from the Northern Ireland block grant which funds public services.

The health minister said he had managed his budget to the best of his ability but admitted there was still wastage to be reduced.

Ms McLaughlin responded: "All of us do deserve a first-class health service that is free at the point of delivery and that actually targets health inequalities and provides better outcomes for all of our citizens.

"This current scenario is a mess, there are clearly very real questions in relation to the management of your budget."

© UTV News
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27 Comments
Martin in Carrick wrote (55 days ago):
Hand power back to Westminster because these muppets, my apologies to Kermit and co, but these muppets are failing miserably.
toron cana in belfast wrote (55 days ago):
put sein fein in charge of health because they keep saying they could make things better. so i say give them a chance and see if they do. because clearly the dup idiots up at the nut house on the hill are not doing a very good job.
Martine in Belfast wrote (56 days ago):
I'm on the "Urgent" list waiting for a scan at the Ulster. Was told by admin there was a backlog and it would be at least 15 weeks before I even got a letter asking me to make an appointment - disgraceful
Belfast in Belfast wrote (56 days ago):
Colin in Lisburn that is a disgusting idea. Health care should NEVER be for profit. The blame for state of our health service lies squarely with Westminster.
Jack in Belfast wrote (56 days ago):
These politicians , I think I read, are on 70K a year. 70K! My niece could do a better job then them for some money for sweets. 70K!! That’s' over twice the average for N. Ireland. Obscene.
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