Editor's Viewpoint: Ulster's top medics are at the heart of it
The National Health Service is often slated, particularly in these times when funding limitations impinge on facilities and speed of treatment.
While much of the rest of the world is in awe at the quality of our free at the point of delivery services, we often taken it for granted and demand more and more from hard-pressed staff. As the population ages and medicine advances we expect a cure for all ills, even when that is not practical.
What we often don't appreciate, however, is the tremendous skill of our healthcare workers and the huge amount of research which goes on in laboratories and hospitals throughout the province.
Our cancer treatments, for example, stand in comparison with anything available in the UK thanks to the critical mass of researchers working in the centres for the disease. And now we have another example of ground-breaking advances pioneered in the province.
As our story today reveals, surgeons at Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital can now perform a vital life-saving operation to replace faulty heart valves through a type of keyhole surgery, greatly lessening the trauma for the patient and speeding recovery. It doesn't even require the heart to stop beating and the patient can feel the benefit almost immediately. A special type of valve has been developed to make the procedure easier to perform.
The new procedure is a testament to the skill and resourcefulness of local doctors and gives Northern Ireland immense recognition in the world of medicine as a centre of excellence. It was at the same hospital that another world-leading cardiac invention, the portable defibrillator, was pioneered and countless thousands of patients around the world owe their lives to it.
In years to come countless more may also be thanking the skilled surgeons who devised this latest surgical procedure and are training other doctors throughout the world how to do it.