Parents of young cardiac patients in Derry have expressed their fears over a review of services which could see them being forced to travel to England for their children’s treatment in the future.
The Safe and Sustainable Review, which was published on Friday of last week, concluded that paediatric cardiac surgery is not sustainable in Belfast and should cease.
Derry mother Claire Ball, whose daughter Hollie (12) has undergone cardiac surgery in the Royal three times said any move away from treatment in Belfast would increase the risks to the lives of babies and children who, she said, “are already fighting against the odds to live”.
Claire’s daughter Hollie was born with a double inlet left ventricle, and co-arctation of the aorta. In layman’s terms she was born with “half a heart” - her condition was diagnosed at birth and when it was finally discovered Hollie - just days old - was critically ill. Claire firmly believes if her daughter had not been able to access care at Belfast she would not have survived.
“I fully support the wonderful cardiac team at the RBHSC in Belfast and I know that without them, she wouldn’t be here today,” Claire said.
“The withdrawal of this service would have huge implications for babies and children with heart defects and their families. All children, (including newborn, newly diagnosed babies) will be required to travel to England for their heart surgery. Parents will have to leave their homes and families and often in an emergency situation.
“Having experienced the initial shock and trauma of diagnosis, families are now being told that their only option may be to travel to England for treatment. This will add to the distress and discomfort already being experienced by children and families and presents a significant financial challenge for many.”
“Sick children in this country have a right to continue be treated here. We currently have a service which has been proven to be safe and which is second to none. We are appealing to the Health minister, Edwin Poots to protect and enhance the excellent, safe service which exists and to strengthen links with Our Lady’s Hospital in Dublin to maintain an all-Ireland team,” she said.
Claire is backed by the Children’s Heartbeat Trust. Sarah Quinlan, Executive Officer said: “We are calling on Minister Edwin Poots to ensure the continued provision of heart surgery for babies and children at The Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children in Belfast. This is the time for local Ministers to take local decisions and resist a ‘one size fits all’ UK approach.
“There are options available which can safeguard the provision of heart surgery for children and babies in Northern Ireland, such as an all-Ireland network which retains a service in Belfast. We welcome the fact that parents and patients’ representatives will be represented on the working group which is due to report in six months. Our overriding position is that it is imperative that children’s heart surgery continues to be delivered at the hospital in Belfast.”