Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 31 August 2014

Threat to 4,000 health jobs is not scaremongering, insists minister

The Health Minister has hit back at criticism over his claims 4,000 health service jobs are at risk if the draft Budget is approved.

Michael McGimpsey accused the DUP and Sinn Fein of sabotaging the NHS’s future for politics.

Political unrest at Stormont has been growing in recent weeks. Earlier this week the UUP called on Finance Minister Sammy Wilson to go back to the drawing board on the draft Budget.

Mr Wilson has attacked claims by Mr McGimpsey that cuts to his department could cost 4,000 jobs and has accused him of being short on detail when pushed.

But Mr Gimpsey said: “I care too much about the health service to scaremonger and the figures I have given about 4,000 jobs are irrefutable. I don’t play politics with the health service.

“It’s far too important for scaremongering; I only wish that I was.

“The fact is we are getting a decrease in the health budget of 2.5% in real terms. In England they are going up 1.3%, so it is incorrect to say we are the same or doing better than them.

“We have already lost 1,500 posts so far as a result of Sammy’s special Budget and the risk to 4,000 more jobs is accurate, it’s the truth. The time has come to ask: ‘what is everyone’s priority?’

“Look at the ward block at the Ulster Hospital and the fact that it is in such poor state. John Compton from the health and social board has said if it goes down, and it really could become unusable, it would knock over the entire acute sector in Greater Belfast.

“Is that more important than building a bypass? I am not saying I don’t want roads to be built, but we have to prioritise.”

Mr McGimpsey said he is frustrated by the stance being taken by Sinn Fein and the DUP with regards to the Budget.

“I am worried from listening to Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness this is a done deal.”

He added: “I think it is disgraceful that the elderly and the vulnerable are going to suffer as a result.”

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