Health Minister Jim Wells said child heart surgery may, in future, be carried …

Health Minister Jim Wells said child heart surgery may, in future, be carried out in Dublin, on 14 October 2014.

Mr Wells was delivering a statement on the outcome of the October monitoring round and a report on paediatric congenital heart services.

An International Working Group, made up of leading physicians in the field, recommended a “single service model” for the island of Ireland, which would mean surgery in Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital would cease.

Minister Wells said, “the simple reality is that we cannot reach these standards alone”, but assured MLAs his priority remained “patient safety and effective delivery of care”.

Mr Wells said that, at present, a very small number of “less complex” paediatric cardiac operations and interventional procedures take place in Belfast, and cardiac treatment for adults would continue there.

However, he said he “could not ignore the expertise and experience” of the working group and, subject to a consultation, intended to implement the change.

Responding to a question from Sinn Fein’s Maeve McLaughlin, who chairs the Health Committee, the minister said he was “relieved” to say a cardiac facility at Altnagelvin hospital near Londonderry was “going ahead as planned”.

She sought further detail on the process of transferring services, the timescale and the change from “a hub and spoke model” to a single centre.

Jo-Anne Dobson of the UUP asked the minister how we would “address the fears of parents” as “words and promises aren’t enough”.

He said parents’ views would “be at the core of this new arrangement” which he said was designed to be “a co-operative model”.

Alliance MLA Kieran McCarthy asked Mr Wells if he had indentified areas of “financial mismanagement” by his predecessor, Edwin Poots.

Minister Wells disputed the characterisation of “mismanagement” saying, “it’s simply that demand has risen dramatically – demand rose 6%, the budget by 2%”.

Prior to Mr Wells’ statement, Principal Deputy Speaker Mitchel McLaughlin said the TUV leader Jim Allister’s speaking rights would be restricted until 10 November following a disagreement with Deputy Speaker Roy Beggs in the chamber the previous week.

Mr McLaughlin described the incident as “amongst the worst we have seen in this Assembly”.

Mr Allister tried to make a comment after Mr McLaughlin made the ruling, but the principal deputy speaker said he did not want to hear from the the North Antrim MLA unless it was an apology to Mr Beggs.

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