Robin Swann, the North Antrim Ulster Unionist Party Assembly and Chairman of the Stormont Employment and Learning Committee, has called on the DUP Health Minister “to get his act in gear and start implementing a policy which genuinely cares for the sick and puts patients first”.
Assemblyman Swann issued his challenge to the health minister after receiving a response to a written UUP question concerning the list of cancelled operations across hospitals in Northern Ireland, including the Causeway at Coleraine which caters for many people from the constituency.
Mr Swann added: “The response lists the number of cancelled operations across each of our local hospitals over the 12 months up to May15, and shows that a shocking 855 operations had to be cancelled at the Causeway Hospital, ranging from a low of 47 in July 2014 to 101 in September 2014.
“This important information was revealed through an Ulster Unionist Party Assembly Question.
“These figures lay bare the extent of the crisis currently facing the health service. Every single hospital in the country has been affected, and they specifically highlight the terrible situation facing the Causeway.
“With every cancellation, there is a risk of illnesses and ailments progressing. It is normal for an occasional operation to be cancelled, but so many over such a short period of time is a clear sign of a more serious problem.
“Over the last 12 to 18 months, I have been growing increasingly alarmed at the number of people coming to my constituency office with complaints over delays and cancelled operations.
“The most recent official waiting list statistics, released only recently, revealed that there are now 373,000 people currently waiting for a first outpatient appointment, a diagnostic test or inpatient treatment at hospitals in Northern Ireland. That’s over 20% of the total Northern Ireland population.
“Making people wait for months to be even given an appointment, then for several more for a date of surgery is bad enough in the first place, but then cancelling that operation often at the last moment is cruel.
“By failing to come up with a solution, and as the situation continues to deteriorate month by month, the DUP Health Minister is failing in his fundamental duty of looking after the sick.
“The Ulster Unionist Party has now contacted the Health Trusts demanding an explanation and seek answers as to what action they are taking to cut down on the number of operations being cancelled both now and in the future,” said Assemblyman Swann.