The Ulster Unionist Party has criticised Health Minister, Jim Wells, for ‘enthusiastically endorsing’ recommendations to end paediatric cardiac surgery in Northern Ireland.
UUP Health Spokesperson, Jo-Anne Dobson MLA, said: “I am concerned that today’s statement was little more than a rubber stamp, confirming for parents what they already knew in their hearts. Listening to the Minister, it confirmed my suspicions that this consultation exercise was one with a predetermined outcome.”
Julie Flaherty, from Portadown, has been campaigning endlessly with the Children’s Heartbeat Trust since her son was born with a congenital heart defect in 2011. Her son, Jake, died aged just two years old, but had received treatment in Northern Ireland.
Speaking after Mr Wells’ announcement, Julie said: “We’ve been expecting this since the announcement last year, so it wasn’t unexpected, but disappointing, nonetheless.”
The Health Minister suggested that changes would be phased over the next 15-18 month.
“In the interim, our children are having to travel to England for treatment,” Julie explained. “The way the consultations have been held have been very difficult for parents. We were very fortunate in that my son got all his treatment between Belfast and Craigavon, but the Children’s Heartbeat Trust will be fighting now to make sure that the £1.2 million will provide pre- and post-operative care for children in Belfast.”
Julie recently launched Jake’s Ladybird Bags, which contain basic supplies to help parents having to travel at short notice with children suffering from heart disease.
“After the announcement, is seems these bags have been launched at the perfect time” she said.
Visit www.childrensheartbeattrust.org or search for Jake’s Ladybird Bags for more.