Responding to Carla Lockhart`s claims about the Health Service, Ulster Unionist Health spokesperson, Alan Chambers MLA, said:
“Decisions on clinical priority are taken by specialist clinical staff, not by politicians. To suggest our doctors and nurses are treating any patients as ‘second class’ is yet another disgraceful slur from the DUP.
“The best way to protect cancer operations is to drive down Covid infection rates. That has been repeatedly made clear by cancer specialists.
“The surge in Covid cases has led to many more people requiring life-saving interventions in intensive care. Specialist staff have had to be redeployed to Intensive Care Units (ICUs) to provide that care, meaning some operations have unfortunately had to be postponed. This is hugely regrettable but unavoidable given the staffing realities.
“There is no magic staffing tree to provide additional staff for ICUs. The health service has to work in the real world. If Carla Lockhart needs an explanation for all this, she could start with the decade of underfunding experienced by our health service, resulting in significant underinvestment in staffing. She could also talk to the procession of DUP finance and health ministers who were in office over those 10 years.
“We need unity at this vital phase in the battle with Covid-19. Regrettably, it seems the DUP parliamentary party is still intent on playing politics with a pandemic. They continue to snipe at both the Health Minister and at restrictions agreed by the Executive as whole – an Executive headed by the DUP leader.
“There are more important things to worry about at present than a covert DUP leadership tussle. Carla Lockhart would do well to remember that.”