Editor's Viewpoint: Patient recall shines light on failed politics
The recall of patients of a neurology consultant in Belfast throws into sharp relief the intolerable political situation in the province.
This is an unprecedented medical crisis involving some 2,500 patients, yet there is no political leadership available, nor any way that the public can question what is happening.
Those who received letters asking them to attend special clinics to have their case histories reviewed understandably are angry, confused and greatly concerned.
Former senior health manager John Compton, writing in this newspaper today, rightly points out the contrast of what is happening here and how the authorities are dealing with other health crises in both England and the Republic of Ireland.
In both cases, the respective Health Ministers have been forced to apologise for the inexcusable mistakes made on their watch and have been charged with rectifying the situation as far as possible.
Here, the devolved administration remains in limbo and MLAs are reduced to mouthing ritual complaints safe in the knowledge that there is no one with political responsibility to respond.
With the Assembly and Executive fast becoming a memory, political direction should come from the Secretary of State, but she is determined to remain a strictly hands-off figure plaintively pleading from the sidelines for local politicians to take up the mantle of responsibility they were elected on and for which they are handsomely - if shamefully - still being paid.
Of course, this is just one of the compelling issues on which Northern Ireland is rudderless and voiceless. Where is the consensus - or even rational debate - on Brexit? When will we begin transforming the health service before it is cracked beyond repair? What solutions do we have to ensure all our children receive an education which enables them to realise their full potential? How can we convince investors to set up shop here?
As Mr Compton comments, we have become so used to the absence of meaningful politics, we are now almost resigned to our fate and have lost interest and faith in the political process.
We should be thankful that organisations like the Royal College of Physicians, the RQIA, the Belfast Trust and the Department of Health civil servants still perform their duties and are trying to ensure that patient concerns are addressed as quickly as possible.