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DUP's Hamilton 'playing politics with the health service', says former minister

By Victoria O'Hara

Published 06/10/2015

Ex-UUP Health Minister Michael McGimpsey
Ex-UUP Health Minister Michael McGimpsey

Former Health Minister Simon Hamilton has been accused of having "abdicated all sense of responsibility" after saying he does not believe remaining absent from his post is harming patients.

Ex-UUP Health Minister Michael McGimpsey called for an emergency plan to address the growing waiting list crisis. The MLA was responding to comments made by Mr Hamilton in the Belfast Telegraph yesterday.

He disputed claims that his resignation from Stormont amid escalating waiting times was putting lives at risk.

Mr Hamilton said: "This is nothing short of nonsense. No minister performs the operations. Or carries out the tests. Or delivers the care packages. Yet that's what others would have you believe."

He supported the DUP's policy of resigning which was sparked by the political crisis after the Chief Constable said members of the Provisional IRA were involved in the murder of Kevin McGuigan.

But Mr McGimpsey said it was "ridiculous" that Mr Hamilton did not believe that remaining outside his post was not affecting patients.

Mr McGimpsey added:"I think he doesn't really understand his job if he really believes that I think he is playing politics with the health service. If that is his attitude, why did he take the job? If he believes there is nothing he can do or his leadership has no effect if he isn't there?"

Mr Hamilton was under fire for not attending an Assembly debate on cancer waiting times yesterday.

Sinn Fein MLA Oliver McMullan said Mr Hamilton should return to office immediately.

"As a cancer patient myself I know from personal experience how devastating it is to be told you have cancer, then to face an agonising wait for treatment," he said. "It is unacceptable that the health minister was not in the Assembly today."

UUP Health spokeswoman, Jo-Anne Dobson MLA, said his non attendance at the debate "will have galled the thousands of patients caught up in the crisis".

But Mr Hamilton said: "Our opponents seek to convince people that my absence from my desk at Castle Buildings is impacting on the care that patients in our health service receive. This is nothing short of nonsense."

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