A Conservative spokesman has implored trade unions and Sinn Fein to “get real” about the provision of health services in Northern Ireland.  Frank Shivers said that their reaction to a decision to redirect children from the Mater’s emergent department to the nearby Royal Victoria Hospital as “short-sighted, parish-pump politics at its worst”.

“The Belfast Trust has redirected youngsters from the Mater’s A & E, one and a half miles down the road to the Royal Victoria Hospital, where there is a dedicated hospital for sick children”, Frank observed.  “You could scarcely have a more reasonable decision, or indeed a more beneficial policy for patients and parents, yet union leaders and Sinn Fein have decided to play politics and go on the attack.  Their complaints will raise some hollow laughs in rural areas or towns outside Belfast, where people have to habitually travel large distances to get care.”

“The Mater treats a very small number of children and there are no specialist paediatric doctors or nurses at the hospital.  In contrast, the Royal has a specialist paediatric unit.  I know where I’d prefer to take my children, if they were sick.  In Bangor, we’re fighting for the future of a hospital which provides rehabilitation care: exactly the sort of service which does need to be at the heart of communities, yet Sinn Fein and the unions are engaging in an absurd campaign to prevent children going a mile and a half down the road to a better equipped facility.”

“This is absurd nonsense.  We need to have a realistic, sensible approach to the NHS.  Some services are clearly best delivered to patients through a small number of highly specialised units and acute hospitals, where expertise and expensive facilities can be concentrated.  Other services, like rehabilitation and some forms of long-term care, are best provided as close to the community as possible.  Politicians and union leaders should be responsible and take these matters into consideration, rather than ignoring patient safety and outcomes, to indulge in populist politicking.”