Mum battles to save children’s cardiac service

Aimee Brady with her mum Valerie, dad Stephen and brother Taylor.INMM1813-151ar.
Aimee Brady with her mum Valerie, dad Stephen and brother Taylor.INMM1813-151ar.

A MAGHERAFELT mother has stressed that if it was not for the cardiac service at Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital her four-year-old daughter would not be alive today.

Valerie Brady felt compelled to contact the MAIL following last week’s proposal that children’s cardiac surgery be moved from Belfast to Dublin.The recommendation has been made on the grounds that although the service in Belfast is deemed ‘safe,’ it is considered unsustainable (in relation the number of operations that are performed each year).

Valerie has countered that the removal of the service will potentially put the life of children with heart conditions in jeopardy.

She explains that her daughter Aimee has undergone two life-saving operations at the RVH, the first of which took place when Aimee was just six-days-old.

The four-year-old is expected to undergo two further operations in the near future – the family is awaiting the date for the first of these, for a cardiac catheter.

“My concern is that the service is ‘safe’ but ‘not sustainable’ in terms of numbers. At the end of the day, Northern Ireland is not a hugely populated country: they will never have the numbers they need, but the children of Northern Ireland should still have the right to surgery and the facilities that Belfast can offer,” she said.

And, she has expressed grave concerns about a potential knock-on effect if the specialist service is removed from Belfast.

“If a child with a heart condition requires an operation for something else, a bowel condition for example, there will be no surgeon in Belfast to treat that child because there will be no surgeon fit to deal with a cardiac condition,” she said.

The mum-of-two fears also that the implementation of the proposal could result in “de-skilling” and, as a consequence, she says, other services could be “at risk” such as anaesthesia and intensive care.

“Training will be effected and there is a possibility that medical people will want to train and work in other hospitals,” added Valerie.

Health Minister Edwin Poots stated he still had “issues and concerns” about the recommendations

made by a working group. He said there was a “weakness” in the proposals in respect of newborn babies who required heart surgery.

“I think that some of those children wouldn’t be in a very fit state at that point of time and therefore the movement may not be suitable and I want to see what the possibilities are of actually bringing the surgeons to Belfast to carry out those operations.”

Meanwhile, regarding journey times from the North to Dublin, Valerie has stated: “There is only one specialist ambulance. What if a child is ill at a very busy time? And what if two children take ill at the same time? What’s going to happen then.”