Editor's Viewpoint: Patients suffer as Stormont sits idle
Over the past couple of years this newspaper has been presenting snapshots of the NHS. Like the vast majority of people, we are grateful for the life-saving work which the service delivers daily and we have no doubt that those who work in it are dedicated to ensuring care is of a high standard.
But, as three stories on our pages today reveal, that standard slips, not because of human error or lack of will, but through lack of resources and implementation of plans to streamline the service.
From primary care to the most vital lifesaving therapies there are systemic problems which frankly could put lives at risk and statistics indicate that the service is buckling under the perfect storm of increased demand and insufficient resources.
In March this year, 200 patients did not see a breast cancer specialist within the Government's target time of 14 days. For them that was a serious problem, as everyone knows that the sooner any sort of cancer treatment begins the better the chances of patients making a recovery.
We also reveal how 23 GP practices have closed in the province in the last five years, meaning longer waiting times for appointments and increased pressure on family doctors due to larger practices. This points to the necessity for a second medical school situated in the north west of the province, where difficulty in retaining doctors is greatest.
But the story which will really shock readers is that of mother-of-four Karen McMurray, who was treated for breast cancer. She then funded a hysterectomy costing £4,000 to give herself greater peace of mind that the cancer would not return.
But now she has taken out a loan of £16,000 to undergo private breast reconstruction, because of the length of the waiting list to have the operation conducted under the NHS.
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It can be argued that it is her choice to borrow that money to speed up treatment, but Karen argues that the lengthy wait for NHS surgery is causing her great mental stress.
It is shameful that she should have to resort to this desperate measure. She is a nurse, so she knows how the system works and its frailties and she has no doubt where the blame lies - at the empty Assembly in Stormont.
The stay-away politicians, still drawing a salary, should hang their heads in shame as they watch the NHS deteriorate, when a plan for its rejuvenation sits waiting for implementation by them.