Attempts by health officials in the North West to deliver better services are being strangled by consistent budget cuts and moves towards privatisation, a local union official has warned.
Michael O’Kane from NIPSA said that nothing within the health service was now sacred, adding that it was time for everyone to make a stand ahead of an expected day of co-ordinated public sector strike action on March 13th.
He was speaking at the Maldron Hotel in Derry at a meeting this week to discuss a response to the threat to 20,000 public sector jobs and cuts to services, and the implications of the Stormont House Agreement.
Another union official at the event said that the Western Trust was about to go to market with a £13.2m contract for a private company to take on home help services across Derry and the wider western region.
Mr O’Kane said: “The health service is under significant pressure and has been for quite some significant period of time. For the last number of years, year-on-year the Western Trust budget has been getting smaller and smaller and the reason for this is services are now being outsourced.
“We basically are set targets and the targets are there to safeguard safety, quality and make sure patients receive treatments.
“Those targets serve a purpose in making sure people are seen, however they are not funded properly. Western Trust are year-on-year trying to deliver services which is impossible to do given the funding they have.
“We can sugar coat this any way we like but the services we have today we will not have next year or the following year.”
He added that the services the Trust staff want to do are now having to be put on the back burner. The Trust are now in a position that they can only do what they have to do,” Mr O’Kane claimed.
“In this Western Trust alone there is 47% of children in child poverty. It’s absolutely scandalous, and then there is also 525 children in the Looked After system.
“The Trust are only actually funded to look after 400.
“The need is there. The demand is there. But the services will not be there.
“As this budget really starts to unravel, we are going to suffer severely.
“We are the worst area for jobs as it is. The NHS is supposed to be from the cradle to the grave but nothing at the minute is sacred.
“The Stormont Executive have done a deal that is going to cripple our health service, absolutely obliterate it.
“We have to with every inch of our bodies, fight tooth and nail for what we have and hold on to it.”