‘We will not stop fighting’

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A Derry mother who is a local spokesperson for the Children’s Heartbeat Trust said yesterday was a “very disappointing” day for all involved in the campaign to keep cardiac services in Belfast - but that the group was “determined to keep fighting”.

“Our children have already beaten the odds to be here - we are not going to let them down now by giving up now,” Claire Ball, whose daughter Holly underwent life saving surgery in Belfast when she was just a few days old, said.

Ms Ball said she was not surprised that the working group into the future of Cardiac Services in Belfast had recommended that surgical services be moved to Dublin.

“It is our opinion it was a done deal before the consultation period even started,” she said. “This was a box ticking exercise by the consultative body who pretended to listen, or half listened to the parents who have very real concerns for their children.”

Ms Ball said her daughter would not have survived the journey to Dublin if that had been her only option when she took critically ill at just a few days old.

“Holly is one of any number of children - not only those who are born now and needing support, but children who are not yet born and will need support.

“We have no choice but to keep fighting for our children. The recommendation has been put before the minister Edwin Poots, but he can still reject the recommendation and decide to put his backing behind cardiac services in Belfast.

“The service in Belfast is safe - there have never been any safety issues with the service there - and the Minister can make it sustainable.

“It is up to us now as parents, and as a group, to focus our fight on speaking to the Minister and telling him again why this is so important -and getting him to listen to our children’s stories.”

HSC Board Chief John Compton said: “The Board has only one objective and that is to provide a safe, high quality and sustainable service into the future. T

“The Board has and will continue to work closely with those who use the service to ensure that any changes are properly explained and where possible take account of family views.

“I am confident that the work undertaken will help sustain access to excellent care into the future.”