Lagan Valley MLA Robbie Butler has described the health service waiting times crisis as “a tragedy”.
The Ulster Unionist MLA was responding to the latest government waiting times statistics, which were published just a week after health trusts unveiled plans for further cutbacks in order to save money.
Mr Butler recently met with healthcare staff and union officials at Lagan Valley Hospital to “gauge the frustration and low morale of front line care staff in the face of increased waiting times and budget reductions.”
“The situation in our health service is deteriorating with every passing week. It is a tragedy that so many people are being forced to wait for so long. As a result it is inevitable that some are coming to avoidable harm. That is the brutal reality of just how bad the situation is right now,” he said.
“Our NHS is the most cherished of all public institutions, but it’s struggling. The pressures locally are completely unprecedented and the local waiting times across Lagan Valley are frightening. The revelation last week that over 14,000 people in the South Eastern Trust have been waiting longer than a year for their first appointment is completely abhorrent.
“These are people’s lives we are talking about. Thousands are desperately awaiting a diagnosis, with many more seemingly just being expected to endure debilitating pain and discomfort desperately awaiting treatment. That’s just not good enough.”
The former firefighter added: “Without the devotion of our local health workers, who have steadily become exhausted and demoralised from their spiralling workloads over recent years, the entire system would collapse. Never before has their dedication and absolute commitment been as important as it is right now. But they need support, and right now they’re not getting it.
“Patients are hurting in Northern Ireland, and yet instead of taking the urgent measures needed to fix the problem local health managers are proposing to cut back on the very services they should be strengthening.”
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