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Rural Hospitals facing 'a death by a thousand cuts'

12 February, 2007

Sinn Féin Agriculture and Rural Development Spokesperson, Fermanagh South Tyrone Assembly candidate Michelle Gildernew MP has said that the latest proposals out for consultation on Pathology services in our hospitals provides further evidence of the erosion of services in our rural hospitals.

Ms Gildernew said:

"These proposals represent a real danger to our rural hospitals because the removal of the pathology laboratory from the hospital will lead to further and further erosion of the medical capacity and capability of hospitals.

"Under direct rule there has been a fresh assault on the provision of healthcare to our rural communities. Our rural hospitals are facing a death by a thousand cuts.

"The withdrawal of pathology services from a number of our rural hospitals will affect the sustainability of the Erne, Sinn Féin's vision for Omagh, Antrim, the Mid Ulster and Daisy Hill Hospitals.

"This means that thousands of people are looking at a future where they are denied equal access to essential health services because they do not live near to the concentration of health services in Belfast, Derry and Craigavon.

"We need a new approach to rural health services that is not undermined by a dogmatic short sightedness or solely by the decisions of departmental bean counters. We need an approach to rural health that supports our rural communities by giving them access to the services they need.

"It is an approach that has seen success in a number of other countries including Scotland where the commitment to rural communities has seen the development of new models of best practices and a radical approach to training healthcare professionals including developing the skills of local doctors and nurses to meet the needs of rural communities. As a first step in delivering a new vision for rural healthcare Sinn Féin want to see the establishment of a Rural Health Taskforce." ENDS

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