March to save children's heart surgery

Published Saturday, 02 February 2013
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Hundreds of people have taken part in a march to support the retention of paediatric cardiac surgery at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children.

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Children and their families took part in the demonstration, which saw them walk from the Royal to gather at the Public Health Agency building at Linenhall Street on Saturday morning.

The march is part of the Hands Up for Heart Surgery campaign.

Concerns about the future of paediatric cardiac surgery at the Royal were first raised back in August last year, when Health Minister Edwin Poots confirmed that the service was under consideration.

A review had found that although the unit at the Royal - which sees around 90 operations carried out annually - was above par, it would not be realistic to maintain.

If the provision of paediatric congenital cardiac surgery is withdrawn, young patients across Northern Ireland may have to travel to England for treatment.

I want them to keep it here, so the other babies who have to have heart surgery don’t have to move.

Ruth, age 7

One mum told UTV just why it was so important for her to turn to support the services under threat.

"Our daughter was diagnosed with a congenital heart condition last year and had open heart surgery just in October past," Liz Breen said, praising all the staff involved at the Royal.

"It would just be terrible to see a service like that - an amazing service - leave Northern Ireland."

A number of Stormont MLAs were also present at the rally on Saturday.

"I know how important it is to have specialist services close by when you're very young and vulnerable," the SDLP's Conall McDevitt said.

"That's what we need to protect here - our services. And we need to protect them in the context of an all-island service."

Sinn Féin's Sue Ramsey also called for the health minister to consider an all-island approach, to spare children the journey overseas for treatment.

"One of the key issues that came out of the review was that air transport shouldn't be used as an option," she explained.

Alliance's Kieran McCarthy added: "If devolution is to mean anything then our local health minister must make a decision that is in the best interest of people in Northern Ireland, and not just follow a UK wide decision."

© UTV News
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16 Comments
pauline in newry wrote (437 days ago):
This is very imotional for a lot of families concerned.if the politicians concerned had a family member diagnosed with a heart condition then we be singing from a different hymn book.every day we look at our loved ones suffering and their we lives are full of check ups.medicine and suffering.my 2an half year old grandson was born with hplhs and today is away to birmingham for open heart repair on a serious leaking valve in his heart which he has had since birth and his 2surgeries which he has had already and another one after this.my daughter and son.in.law have just had a new baby 8weeks ago which they have had to leave behind along with other son at 6yr old..this is a very imotional day for us all an my daughter an son.in.laws young family has been totally split up.this surgery is paramount to my grandson health.and without the care from the clark clinic who monitors his condition at the drop of a hat where would we be..by trying to remove this service is an outrage.no.body knows when they may need it.we never ever ever thought we would have a heart baby in family but we did and he is a we warrior.please have a heart and leave it beeeeeee x
Hands Off! in North Antrim wrote (439 days ago):
Hands off our hospitals Poots! We are sick of paying for the greed of bankers and absolute incompetance of politicians. Not one penny has been saved by any cuts to politicians' salaries and perks and no bankers have suffered like we are having to. We won't stand for sick children being targetted for cuts.
Adam Harbinson in Bangor wrote (439 days ago):
Good job all. I share your concern. Don't forget a number of Councillors, Council Officers and some others are doing an abseil at Belfast's Europa on March 24th to raise funds for Children's Heartbeat Trust and to raise awareness of the need to keep Clarke Clinic functioning!
SDLP Cllr Brian Heading in lisburn wrote (439 days ago):
I had great day on Saturday marching with parents and children for retention and improvement of Children Heart Surgery facilities in Northern Ireland. Why should the expertise collected over the years by the our local hospital staff be set aside by officials and this need to always pay homage to the cost of services and not their value to the community. Cllr Brian Heading
strabane in strabane wrote (439 days ago):
linda if the government handent of been involved in the first case they would be no inquires
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