Head to head

THE battle to save hosptial services in Mid Ulster turned into a political storm this week with two high profile campaigners bidding for a seat in the Assembly elections.

Both Save the Mid campaigner Hugh McCloy and well known health activist Gary McCann announced their intention to stand for the May Assembly elections.

They will be standing as independents and will have health issues at the heart of their agenda.

Mr McCann has been at the forefront of health issues for several years since his little girl Katie Maguire took ill soon after her birth.

The Magherafelt man who launched a campaign almost four years ago to ‘Keep Baby Katie Awake’ will fight to reinstate A&E services for both Mid Ulster and South Tyrone Hospital.

He said: “Rural health services are being eroded. It’s neither safe nor cost effective to centralise services in this way.

“I plan to secure equality of healthcare provision for Mid Ulster with a safe, secure, accessible and reliable service for all. To defend the rights of the elderly,”

As a result of complications at birth little Katie Maguire suffers from a rare form of epilepsy, which means she can’t see, swallow or smile.

Katie’s parents were forced to travel to Chicago for treatment and Gary and his partner Mekila Maguire launched the hugely successful ‘Keep Baby Katie Awake’ campaign back in 2008.

Also standing is chairman of the Save the Mid campaign group, Hugh McCloy, who came to prominence following the closure of the Mid Ulster Hospital’s Accident and Emergency Unit last year.

He said: “Regardless of who we are, when we are ill or acutely ill we all require the same treatment, and should have services located in central Northern Ireland to provide that treatment.

“Residents in Mid Ulster have suffered long and hard in the provision of health since the creation of the Assembly, the Dungannon Hospital was controversially taken away from Mid Ulster residents without proper cover being created at Craigavon.

“Shortly after this disgrace that went largely unchallenged politically, the Omagh Hospital fell on the Assembly’s sword, the last beacon of hope for residents in Mid Ulster to rely on, the award winning Mid Ulster Hospital was removed by the Health Trust,” said Mr McCloy.