Councillors deeply concerned over pressures on health service but divided about Stormont’s ability to address the problem

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Members of Derry City and Strabane District Council have expressed deep concern over the ‘ever-growing pressures’ faced by the health service but were divided over whether or not the restoration of a Stormont Executive can provide a panacea.

Councillors were unanimous in their support of a motion tabled by SDLP councillor Tina Gardiner praising the “heroic efforts of health service staff”.

The Council will now write to the Head of the Civil Service, David Sterling, and the Permanent Secretary at the Department of Health, Richard Pengelly, raising its concerns. Colr. Gardiner said staff shortages were putting patient safety at risk.

“We have patients who are on lists who have pre-cancerous conditions, who are supposed to be checked yearly and eighteen-monthly, dropping off the end of waiting lists and it being four-and-a-half years between regular check up appointments,” she said.

Describing the situation as extremely serious she attacked Sinn Féin and the DUP for failing to agree a basis for power-sharing.

“To behave like the opposition when you have a mandate to govern is unacceptable to me,” she said.

DUP Alderman Hilary McClintock responded: “We agree fully that the way to address this issue is to show leadership and we call on all parties to get back into Government to sort out our health service.”

Sinn Féin Colr. Patricia Logue, however, said “the Tory and now Tory/DUP agenda” that has been pursued over the past seven years was the real source of the crisis.

“All of these issues have not come about from the closure of Stormont,” she said.

‘Health and Wellbeing 2026: Delivering Together’, which was published during Michelle O’Neill’s tenure as Health Minister in 2016, pointed a way forward, said Colr. Logue.

However, she warned: “We believe that the biggest threats facing us at the moment on this issue are Brexit and the Tory/DUP austerity and that the institutions are the best mitigation against those twin threats.”

Independent Colr. Gary Donnelly, blamed the “evil ideology that is Toryism” and its adherents for “ruining the health service” and paving the way for rolling privatisation.

He said the restoration of Stormont was irrelevant.

“I’m listening here all day about Stormont and how people need to get back into Stormont and it’s turning my stomach, how the grass was greener when we were in Stormont,” he said.