Plans are being developed to allow lifesaving kidney transplants to be carried out again by Northern Ireland's struggling health service.
Health Minister Robin Swann has revealed work is now under way to enable the organ surgery to resume as quickly and safely as possible.
Earlier this year it emerged that organs from deceased donors were regularly being turned down instead of being used for transplantation because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Surgical services have been one of the biggest casualties of the latest surge of the pandemic.
Health bosses have been forced to divert key staff away from operating theatres and recovery wards to help colleagues cope with the number of people seriously ill with the coronavirus.
More than 900 cancer patients have had their operations cancelled this year as a result and hundreds more elective surgeries have been affected.
DUP MLA Jonathan Buckley, a member of the Stormont health committee, asked Mr Swann for details of the services currently available for kidney patients given the postponement of planned renal surgery.
The minister said: "The financial, quality of life and long-term health impacts of kidney failure are well documented, and the safety of patients must therefore remain at the forefront of our pandemic response.
"I am committed to avoiding any prolonged reduction in the provision of both renal access and renal transplant surgery, despite the unprecedented constraints which Covid-19 is placing on our health service.
"Clinicians are also working collaboratively across trusts to ensure that the most clinically urgent patients can continue to receive the treatment they require to enable them to commence dialysis.
"Furthermore, patients who do not have dialysis access created by surgical means can commence haemodialysis by means of central venous access, which is non-surgical.
"In light of the current constraints on theatre capacity with Belfast Trust, the full resumption of renal access surgery is likely to involve alternative locations, and work is under way to develop proposals to facilitate this on a regional and equitable basis as soon as possible."