RVH doctor probe: Complaints not raised with Sinn Fein's O'Neill as minister
Complaints around the work of Dr Michael Watt were not raised with former Health Minister Michelle O'Neill during her tenure in office, Sinn Fein has said.
Mrs O'Neill took over the health portfolio at Stormont from the DUP's Simon Hamilton in May 2016, seven months before concerns about Dr Watt's work were first raised with the Belfast Health Trust by other doctors.
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Mrs O'Neill, who held the post until the collapse of the Assembly over a year ago, yesterday expressed "very serious concerns" surrounding the 2,500 patient recall.
The Belfast Telegraph contacted Sinn Fein's vice-president yesterday to ask if she had ever been made aware of any issues surrounding the consultant neurologist while in office.
In response, Sinn Fein said: "The concerns around Dr Watts work were not raised with Michelle O'Neill during her tenure as Health Minister.
"The Health Department permanent secretary has confirmed that a standard early alert was sent to the department on February 13, 2017.
"As an operational issue, it was not referred to the Health Minister.
"The issue was elevated when the initial review began in July 2017, by which stage ministers had been out of office for several months.
"Nevertheless, Michelle O'Neill shares the very serious concerns surrounding the patient recall and is engaging closely with party spokesperson Pat Sheehan MLA, the Health Department and other stakeholders to ensure all necessary resources and services are in place to conduct the review swiftly and to meet the needs of patients."
The DUP was also asked if any concerns had been raised with Mr Hamilton during his 12 months in the post.
However, no response had been received at the time of going to press.