Waiting time data paints bleak picture

Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry.
Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry.

SDLP MLA Mark H. Durkan has claimed that the latest hospital waiting times published by the still politically skipperless Department of Health (DoH) paint a dismaying picture for current and prospective patients and health workers alike.

The Foyle MLA made the comments after DoH data for hospital waiting times at the end of March revealed that many departmental targets have not been met and that too many people are still waiting too long for appointments and admissions.

The SDLP health spokesperson said things needed to improve quickly.

He commented: “These latest figures paint a very bleak picture and sadly there is no sign of improvement.

“Every week, we hear from and help people who are having difficulty receiving the health care they need.

“I also hear regularly from health care staff of the pressures that they are under working in a system that is at breaking point.”

Although the department is now principally under the stewardship of its current Permanent Secretary Richard Pengelly, Mr. Durkan said that the lack of a stable Stormont Executive and the lack of oversight by a democratically elected Minister was damaging for the health service.

Mr. Durkan blamed the disappointing figures on the most recent Health Minister, Michelle O’Neill, who is of course, the current northern leader of his party’s political rivals in next week’s Westminster election, Sinn Féin.

He said: “We heard a lot from the last Health Minister, Michelle O’Neill, about how she was going to change this. The publication of this information shows clearly that the situation got worse under her watch, not better.”

The Foyle MLA said the failure to meet a raft of waiting time targets wasn’t good enough.

He said: “Practically every ministerial target she set was missed.

“Patients are having to wait even longer for procedures that will dramatically improve their lives.

“It is imperative that we get a government up and running here and work collectively to create a health care system that delivers for patients and values staff.’’