Editor's Viewpoint: It's time politicians solved health crisis
Industrial action, no matter how worthy the cause or the environment in which it takes place, always degenerates into a blame game and yesterday was a prime example. The Belfast Health Trust said it had to cancel cancer diagnostic tests because of strike action by health workers, who retorted that they had agreed to exempt cancer services from any disruption.
Physiotherapy services were also affected but again the health unions said there were no physiotherapists on the picket lines.
So who is right and who is wrong? It is impossible to be dogmatic on that point, but the net effect is that some patients whose GPs suspect they may have cancer are having to wait to undergo tests to establish if they are ill or not.
That is not acceptable. Cancer is one disease where early diagnosis can lead to a positive outcome. Delaying treatment can have serious consequences.
What is beyond argument in this industrial action is that health workers here are paid less than their counterparts in other regions of the UK and that, to a large extent, is the fault of local politicians who diverged from national pay agreements some years ago.
The Department of Health argues that it does not have the funds to pay the increase in wages demanded by the unions but says the unions should come back to negotiations. Quite what the Department intends to offer in those circumstances is difficult to fathom.
Meanwhile the health service is lurching from crisis to crisis, held together only by the goodwill and great skill of overworked and stressed staff. With 7,000 vacancies in the health service it is obvious that many people do not find it an attractive place to work.
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Unbelievably local politicians are in no rush to re-establish devolved government and accept responsibility for halting the NHS's slide into the abyss. For example, Sinn Fein in its general election manifesto unveiled yesterday, scarcely made any mention of the crisis in the most important public service while majoring attention on point scoring over Brexit and the need for an Irish language act.
In any language the message is clear - we need ministers in charge at Stormont to make the decisions which affect the population on a day-to-day basis.
That is the message that needs to come out of the forthcoming election. Brexit has dominated politics to the detriment of everything else.