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'No-show' Hamilton slammed over failure to answer key questions

By Lisa Smyth

Published 10/11/2015

Simon Hamilton
Simon Hamilton

The Health Minister has come under fire after failing to answer questions on key issues including cancer care, patient safety and waiting times for children with heart conditions.

Simon Hamilton has been branded "the no-show minister" after he failed to turn up to answer an urgent question yesterday to address why he did not inform the Assembly of his intention to close the Health & Social Care Board before making a public announcement on the matter.

It follows his failure to answer another question in the Assembly last week on year-long waits for children who need to see a heart consultant. And it has also emerged he has said he is too busy to meet Stormont's all-party group on cancer before the end of this year, while junior doctors have reacted with anger after he refused to say whether he believes proposed changes to their contract will put patients at risk.

Jo-Anne Dobson, a member of the Stormont health committee, said: "It shows a complete disregard for his Assembly colleagues, but more importantly, it shows a complete disregard for the people he was elected to serve.

"We were told the minister had to attend to pressing matters so couldn't answer the urgent oral question regarding the Health Board but I saw him in the chamber just an hour later voting on a Sinn Fein motion calling for a proper investigation into the Ballymurphy massacre.

"I could hardly believe my eyes, I was astonished and appalled.

"I am also the secretary of the all-party group on cancer and we asked him to come along and brief us on his plans for cancer, at his convenience, any time before Christmas and he has responded to say he is too busy. "First of all we had the 'in and out' minister and now he is 'no show' minister."

Meanwhile, junior doctors have hit out at the DUP MLA after a Department of Health spokeswoman said Mr Hamilton will not respond to their concerns that patients will be put at risk by new contracts.

Dr Michael Moran, a spokesman from Save Patients, Save Doctors NI, branded it "the latest slap in the face" by Mr Hamilton, who only announced last week he does not want to impose the contract after repeated calls for clarity on the matter.

A series of questions were put to the minister on October 28, but eight days later the Department said the minister would not respond to them.

Dr Moran said the question of patient safety should be a straightforward matter for Mr Hamilton, and that junior doctors were "living in limbo" regarding the future of their careers.

"As an elected representative in a job of critical importance to the people of Northern Ireland, Simon Hamilton has a duty to be open, honest, and to make this difficult decision," he said.

Stormont health committee member Kieran McCarthy hit out at the minister for his refusal to comment on the safety of the proposed contract."Patient safety is paramount to everyone and this is something that must be addressed by the minister," he said.

The Department of Health was asked for a comment but did not respond last night.

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