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Health Service cannot 'bypass' nationalists

15 March, 2006

Sinn Féin Fermanagh South Tyrone Michelle Gildernew MP has said that civil servant plans to bypass regional hospital services will lead to the downgrading of local hospitals and discriminate against rural communities. She also said that the leaked plans showed that there was an unacceptable willingness within the department of health to deny nationalists and rural communities equal access to services.

Ms Gildernew said:

"The implication of this report are far reaching. We need to see the full report and we need a full statement from Shaun Woodward so that we can get to the bottom of this.

"I would also be very concerned at the leaking of this document just before an expected statement about services in Omagh and during a consultation on A&E services at Mid-Ulster and Whiteabbey.

"Clearly there are senior civil servants within the department of health who want to undermine and destroy regional health services, particularly acute hospital care. This report exposes the type of planning drift that Bairbre de Brún challenged when she was Health Minister. It is an approach echoed by SDLP deputy leader Alistair McDonnell in recent days based on concentrating all services at 3 or 4 sites, largely in and around Belfast.

"Implementation of this plan could affect the sustainability of A&E services in rural hospitals and could leave thousands without proper access to life saving services.

"My concern is that now unaccountable civil servants are being allowed to act with impunity that again there is a push on to downgrade and undermine services, particularly west of the Bann. Despite what unelected civil servants think this is not inevitable, as Bairbre de Brún proved.

"These plans show an unacceptable willingness within the department of health discriminate against rural communities in the west and to deny them equal access to services." ENDS

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