Chambers calls on other parties to support Swann as he bids to resolve hospital waiting lists

Ulster Unionist Health spokesperson, Alan Chambers MLA, said:

“Robin Swann has made clear the Health Service is in a fragile state as it also deals with the Covid-19 pandemic. The Health Minister recognises the huge challenges and is determined to make the changes required to address what he himself has described as indefensible waiting times. The Health Service will need political support and proper funding to do that.  

“It requires all politicians to get real about the critical position the Health Service is in. The Alliance Party`s Paula Bradshaw is stating the obvious that waiting lists appear to be spiralling out of control during the Coronavirus pandemic.

“Given the major threat to the life and wellbeing of the community from a virus we knew very little about - other than how deadly it could be - the Health Minister had no alternative but to reassess where we needed to pool our Health Service resources. Whilst many of the most urgent consultations and procedures did go ahead, unfortunately others had to be delayed. That's because it would have been unfair to both patients and staff to bring vulnerable people into hospital waiting rooms and consultation rooms as society tried to control the transmission of the virus. The Minister made it clear however that he expected as many of the other procedures to continue as soon as it was safe and possible to do so. That's the reason each of the Trusts were asked to produce their very own detailed rebuilding plans. 

“It is a fact that waiting lists were out of control long before Covid-19 and have deteriorated over a number of years. For the record, I welcome Paula Bradshaw`s u-turn in the Newsletter earlier this week, now recognising that there is still a long way to go in the Covid-19 pandemic, rather than her statement at the Health Committee on 30 June where she stated that Northern Ireland is ‘now through the far side of the pandemic pretty much.’ This type of political mixed messaging didn`t help anyone and was completely at odds with the message the Public Health Agency was promoting, and is continuing to promote.

“We now need to see political consensus and genuine political will to transform the Health Service to meet Northern Ireland`s needs in the 21st Century. All political parties need to support the Health Minister to take decisive action. There have been lost opportunities over the years, numerous reports published and warnings issued about the consequences of a lack of funding and meaningful change from Robin`s predecessors, not least Michael McGimpsey. Those warnings were ignored at our peril.

“A further three years were lost when the Assembly collapsed as Sinn Fein walked away. That can`t happen again. Too many people across our country are suffering as they wait to be seen in our Health Service, for it to be used as a political football.”

“I have complete confidence in the ability and determination of the Health Minister to tackle the effects of the virus and also to address what he has referred to as  "the absolutely intolerable" hospital waiting lists. He will only be successful if the rest of the Executive Parties demonstrate that they share his determination.”

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