Heart surgery unit must stay open - MLA

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A Derry MLA says the children’s heart surgery unit in Belfast must stay open.

The SDLP’s Colum Eastwood says it is essential that the Clark Clinic at the Royal Hospital remains open and continues to provide provision to babies and young children throughout the north.

Health Minster Edwin Poots has launched a public consultation on the future of services in the north and earlier this week met his Dublin counterpart Minister James Reilly on the issue.

At the same time a public campaign to save the unit is gathering momentum.

An online petition established by Derry’s Eoin Taylor, a former patient at the Clark Clinic, has now gained almost 100,000 signatures.

“The campaign to retain paediatric cardiac services in the Clark Clinic has gained a tide of local support and momentum. The online petition championed by Eoin Taylor and his mother Marie have been at the front line of this campaign,” Mr Eastwood says.

“The sheer common sense of ensuring that sick babies, sick children and their extended families are not forced to fly to Birmingham or London for life-saving surgery needs to guarantee that this service remains operational’.

“Difficult economic choices have and will be faced by government, business and families for the next number of years. This is one choice, however, which should not be blurred or blocked by the prevailing winds of our eroded economic position.”