A failure to implement proposed welfare reforms will ultimately cost lives, Stormont's Health Minister has warned.
Edwin Poots delivered the stark message to MLAs as Sinn Fein called for a delay in passing legislation that would see the region's welfare system overhauled in line with changes in Britain.
The DUP says that a failure to adopt so-called parity measures would see the Executive lose out on hundreds of millions of Treasury funding, and that any delay to the legislative timetable would see deadlines missed.
But Sinn Fein insists that the Welfare Bill is flawed and is targeted at the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people in society.
During ministerial question time at the Assembly, Sinn Fein's Maeve McLoughlin asked Mr Poots how welfare reform would impact on plans to transform the region's health service.
The minister answered in blunt terms. He said: “Welfare reform does, of course, have an impact.
“Were we to do something completely daft and cost this Assembly £220m, that would probably cost us in this department around £100m.
“So if we don't proceed with welfare reform and stay with parity, we will actually have longer waiting lists for hip operations.”
The minister added: “We will have longer waiting lists for people requiring heart surgery. We will have people dying as a consequence of that.”