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Health Minister gambling with cardiac patients' lives - Digney‏

30 December, 2008

Sinn Féin Councillor Monica Digney has spoken of her absolute shock upon hearing that cardiac patients were being transferred from the Northern Health Board area to Belfast by St Johns' Ambulance Service.

The Ballymena Councillor received a call today from concerned relatives who told of a family member being transferred from the Coronary Care Unit at the Causeway Hospital Coleraine, to Belfast City Hospital by St Johns' Ambulance.

Cllr Digney said;

"I received a call today from the family of a patient who had been receiving coronary care treatment at the Causeway Hospital, Coleraine. Medical staff there decided that the patient needed to be transferred to Belfast City Hospital for further treatment. The family assumed that the transfer would be made by Cardiac Ambulance, suitably equipped and properly staffed. To their horror, the patient was directed into a basic St Johns' Ambulance complete with driver and first aider. According to the family, the vehicle had no specialist equipment nor cardiac medical staff. Upon arrival at Belfast City Hospital, tests revealed the patient had suffered a heart attack.

"I made enquiries and it would appear that this practice has been prevalent within the Northern Board Area for a while and this is by no means an isolated incident. Today alone there may have been three or more coronary patients transferred to Belfast Hospitals from within the Northern Board Area in this manner.

"I am calling upon the Health Minister to immediately desist from this practice, which is tantamount to gambling with cardiac patients' lives. St Johns' Ambulance Service is a wonderful voluntary organisation but should not be used as a "sticking plaster" by the Health Minister to mend holes in a service which he seems intent on running into the ground. Patients deserve better and medical and nursing staff are at their wit's end, at having to compromise in such situations as this." ENDS

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