SDLP Health Spokesperson Colin McGrath has said he is alarmed at the dire financial situation facing the health service.
He was speaking after attending a Department of Health briefing on Wednesday where significant financial challenges facing the department were outlined.
Measures under consideration to raise funds include continuing to charge for car parking at hospitals and charging for domiciliary care packages.
South Down MLA Mr McGrath said:
“Following today’s briefing it is clear that the financial situation facing our health service in both the short and medium-term is stark and that the department is being faced with some very difficult decisions to raise funds and keep services operational for patients. In the coming years we are facing a shortfall in the hundreds of millions and that will have a serious impact that will be keenly felt in communities right across the North.
“Our health service is already in a desperate state, staff are under relentless pressure, working long hours in difficult conditions and patients are languishing on waiting lists for important treatments for months and years and lying on trolleys in overcrowded corridors as they wait for a bed. I cannot imagine how much worse the situation is going to get with further cuts necessary to meet budgetary pressures.
“Options being considered include continued car parking charges and charging for domiciliary care packages and this will hit people in the pocket at a time when they can least afford it. The cost of living emergency is already pushing vulnerable people to their limit and these measures will only raise in the region of millions of pounds, with a disproportionate impact on people affected by this cost.
“The answers to the problems within our health service have been clear for some time. We need strategic change that can only be delivered with an Executive, Assembly and Health Minister in place. Addressing these problems will require difficult decisions and the SDLP is ready to support the transformation necessary to save our health service. We cannot continue the way things are and the information coming from the department today will worry health staff, patients and the public about the situation that will unfold within our health service unless drastic action is taken.”