Belfast Telegraph

Cancer patient left in the cold

by Natalie Irvine

A pensioner recovering from breast cancer and living alone, has been left without heat or hot water for the past week, because of a gas leak in her home.

Sarah Mercer, 77, from Sydenham, was left to carry basins of hot water she had boiled in a kettle, up the stairs to her bathroom “to clean herself properly” before she attended hospital yesterday (November 24).

Mrs Mercer told the Community Telegraph: “It’s been dreadful, I have been freezing cold for over a week now and I’ve no hot water to even wash myself properly.

“I had to carry water up the stairs this morning so I could get a bit of a wash before I went to my appointment at the hospital to get my check up, because of the cancer you know.

“I feel like I have been given the run around over getting this problem fixed.

“ I don’t feel like this has been treated as an emergency at all, and it is.

“My daughter has told me we have really cold weather coming this week, I don’t know what to do.”

Mrs Mercer’s daughter, also called Sarah, said: “This is a disgrace, she first phoned the Housing Executive last Tuesday (November 16) because she smelt gas in her home. Phoenix Gas can’t do anything about it because the problem lies inside her home.

“The engineers contracted through the Housing Executive couldn’t detect the leak at first with their equipment, but they had to keep the gas off because of the smell. Now we are told that the engineers don’t have the parts needed to fix the problem and they told my mother they don’t know when they would be able to get them.

“They have left my mother blow heaters but these affect her chest very badly and she can’t breathe with them and so they are turned off. She has tried explaining this to the Housing Executive but she’s been told that they don’t offer any other kind of heaters.

“It is just ridiculous, you can’t treat an old woman who is recovering from cancer like this. I only wish I could take her to my home but we don’t have that option. I’m very concerned about her and it’s very upsetting, I can’t believe she is being treated this way.”

A Northern Ireland Housing Executive spokesperson responded: “We are making arrangements to have her immersion heater fixed as a matter of extreme urgency. Our contractor will also be calling with her today 0with an alternative source of heating. The Housing Executive will also ensure that Mrs Mercer’s heating is repaired as quickly as possible.

“We would like to apologise for any inconvenience this has caused her and we will endeavour to get these issues resolved.”

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