MID-ULSTER representatives of The Children’s Heartbeat Trust have welcomed the announcement by the Minister for Health that agreement has been reached between officials and Dublin surgeons to provide support and surgical cover which allows congenital heart surgery to continue in Belfast.
The fact that an all island assessment of children’s heart surgical service has been commissioned has also been welcomed.
Speaking at Stormont after the announcement, Sarah Quinlan, Executive Officer of the Children’s Heartbeat Trust, said the announcement shows that an all-Island cardiac surgery network is possible and achievable with Dublin surgeons continuing to support their surgical colleagues in Belfast, something they have consistently called for.
“The strength and bravery of families of children with congenital heart disease throughout this campaign has been tremendous and without their support and campaigning today’s agreement would not have happened,” she said. “The work of the Minister and doctors who saw the process through to this point, as well as many the 91 MLAs who signed the pledge has refocused the process on delivering for Northern Ireland children.” said Sarah.
She said the Children’s Heartbeat Trust has argued from the beginning of this process that the continuation of surgery in Belfast was feasible if it was considered as part of an all-island network.
“Earlier this year, MLAs from every constituency and every party signed a pledge to keep children’s heart surgery in Belfast. Since the campaign started over 120,000 people signed an online petition to save surgery, and hundreds of people have taken to the streets, written letters to MLAs and held meetings in support of retaining surgery in Belfast,” she said.
The new review follows a process initiated by the PHA and HSCB which saw the now defunct England and Wales-based Safe & Sustainable team invited to Northern Ireland.
“Throughout this process we have supported the Health Minister’s efforts to retain children’s cardiac surgery in Belfast. The flawed process in England and Wales, whose decisions were overturned by the High Court and then rejected by the Health Secretary, dominated much of the thinking of the HSBC and Public Health. This new assessment hopefully will not repeat the mistakes in the past, with an all-Island focus now serving as our starting point for planning and commissioning, “she added.
*See this week’s Mid-Ulster Mail for a story on a Draperstown toddler whose life was saved by the children’s cardic surgery unit in Belfast.