SDLP Health Spokesperson Colin McGrath has said that reforming the health service must be a key priority of the next Executive.
Mr McGrath was speaking ahead of taking part in a health discussion panel at the SDLP Spring Conference on Sunday.
South Down MLA Mr McGrath said:
“The past two years have really taught everyone the value of our health service. When the coronavirus struck our health service stepped up to the plate, everyone from doctors and nurses to porters and cleaning staff worked tirelessly around the clock to ensure that everyone could get the care they needed and to give every patient the best chance of making a full recovery.
“During the pandemic we became obsessed with health related stats, how many new cases were there in a day, what was the current hospital bed and intensive care unit capacity, matters we didn’t give a second thought to before Covid-19. The reality is the situation in our health service has been dire for many years, with a global pandemic pushing it to the brink of collapse.
“Over the years we have heard numerous plans to reform our health service and the tackle the issues at the heart of it, with all of them falling by the wayside for one reason or another. The Bengoa Report was supposed to be the way forward, the roadmap to a better future for health in the North, but Sinn Féin’s decision to collapse the Assembly and the failure to restore it for three years have left this plan collecting dust on a shelf.
“There can be no more excuses, these problems are staring us in the face. Every day our waiting lists are getting longer and people are unable to access the treatment they need to allow them to life their life to the fullest. We have heard stories of people waiting years for important appointments, long delays in accessing mental health support and even people dying on emergency department trollies, it’s absolutely shameful.
“For the last 15 years Sinn Féin and the DUP have led our Executive and our health service has only gotten worse. There have been multiple opportunities to address the problems plaguing people here and every single one of them have been missed. Even this week a multi-year budget focusing on health could not be progressed because the DUP has collapsed the Executive to serve its own ends. Health must be a key focus of our next Executive, it’s time that these parties stopped playing politics and put people first.”