Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 29 May 2016

Editor's Viewpoint: Innovative take on heart problem

Editor's Viewpoint

Published 04/02/2013

This is a difficult time for the National Health Service in Northern Ireland and elsewhere as it tries to maintain the best service possible in the face of ever-tighter budgets.

This has been highlighted by the demonstration on Saturday in support of the retention of paediatric heart surgery in the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children, despite suggestions it should close on economic grounds.

The passion of the marchers in Belfast and the moving stories of some of the children highlighted that this is not just a matter of economics. This is a human story about children and their parents which strikes to the heart of every family.

Every year around 90 children from this province receive heart surgery at the Royal, and the closure of this service would be traumatic for families who would have to bring their children to another treatment centre in the United Kingdom.

The Health Minister Edwin Poots faces an unenviable task.

He is required to meet his budget targets and he cannot please everyone. Nevertheless the commitment of the demonstrators, and also the 50,000 signatories to a petition supporting the retention of child heart surgery here are a strong argument for finding a solution.

Mr Poots has many other challenges to meet, with finite resources, but it is encouraging to note that he has been pursuing what might be a viable alternative on an all-Ireland basis.

He is involved in talks with Irish Health Minister James Reilly on the possibility of establishing a cross-border network which could meet the needs of parents and children across the island.

This idea has strong merits, and would show that a cross-border approach to this, and other, challenges would be of benefit to everyone.

Ironically the demonstration on Saturday had been planned for December and was postponed due to the Union flag protests.

This is yet another example of a distraction from a key issue affecting people here on all sides, and also a reminder that children's lives are more important than any flag.

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