Published Friday, 07 September 2012
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Parents of babies with heart conditions gathered in Antrim after the Health Minister's announcement last month that the future of paediatric heart surgery is in doubt.
The meetings are being organised by Children's Heartbeat Trust, the charity's 'Hands Up' campaign is striving to save the children's cardiac services in Northern Ireland.
If the paediatric congenital cardiac service at the Royal is withdrawn, young patients may have to travel to England for treatment.
Katie Boyd, one parent at the meeting, said her son Ollie's life was saved after he was treated immediately at the Royal.
"He would not be here if it was not for them. Absolutely," she said.
"Doctor Brian Grant, his consultant, performed the emergency surgery. Mr Gladstone the surgeon performed his open heart surgery and the nurses, anaesthetists, doctors, consultants, all played a role in Ollie's recovery and without them he wouldn't be here."
A health review found that although the paediatric congenital cardiac service in Northern Ireland is above par, it would not be realistic to maintain.
Around 90 operations are carried out at the unit annually and Dr Miriam McCarthy is part of a working group set up to look into the service provided.
"We are looking at what a service ought to look like and how we will assess it and then what the options are for the best way to deliver it," she told UTV.
Dr McCarthy said the round the clock service needed to maintain a high quality surgery unit in Northern Ireland is unsustainable due to the relatively small number of operations carried out.
Health Minister Edwin Poots says he is committed to a safe, sustainable cardiac surgery unit for children, but he must still make the decision on whether or not to shut down the option in Northern Ireland.
The consultation process due to begin around October and is expected to last three months.