JUSTIN McNulty says that he hasn't changed his opinion that the ongoing consultations on breast screening and stroke services are a 'done deal'.
It follows a meeting Mr McNulty attended as part of a cross-party delegation who met senior officials from the Department of Health at Stormont on Thursday.
The group met with the Permanent Secretary at the Department of Health, Richard Pengelly; Chief Medical Officer, Dr Michael McBride; and the Director of Hospital Services Reform, Alastair Campbell.
Speaking after the meeting Mr McNulty explained, “The proposed changes to Stroke Services and Breast Cancer Assessment services will impact the people of Newry, South Armagh and South Down the most.
“It will put lives at risk and will be opposed right across our community. As the only local Assembly Member in attendance, I couldn’t have been more forthright or clear in conveying the concerns of our community to the officials in attendance.
“Before the meeting I was deeply concerned that this appears to be a done deal, and to be frank, I haven’t changed my mind in this regard now that the meeting has concluded. Officials were quite clear that no matter the amount or volume of opposition to the proposals, they will be guided only by compelling medical evidence.
“I have no problem with this, but surely if you withdraw a service from hundreds of thousands of people across Newry, South Down, South Armagh and Armagh then there will be clinical consequences. That consequence to me appears clear - people’s lives are being put at risk.”
Mr McNulty added that people living somewhere like Keady will know the length of time it takes for an ambulance to get from Craigavon or Newry in the first instance, not to mention the travel time for getting a patient back to hospital.
“If you have suffered a suspected stroke every second is vital to making a full recovery,” he added. “These proposals could see an ambulance drive past an outstanding hospital in Newry to drive to Craigavon.
“Any change to breast cancer assessment services will have an equally negative impact locally.
“The proposals will see one of the most clinically advanced services at Craigavon move to Antrim. It will see the merger of two of the busiest Breast Cancer Assessment Units in the north to one site and our fear is that the full suite of breast cancer services will then follow in terms of surgery and follow up services.
“In this instance, clinical experts have recommended retaining Craigavon Breast Cancer Assessment Unit, but the Department has ignored those recommendations.
“These proposals are madness and they must be withdrawn. This community must continue to work together to oppose these plans.
“We must have the clinical support in substantiating our argument so the backing of hospital consultants, doctors and local GP’s will be key to our opposition to the current proposals.”
We put Mr McNulty’s assertions to the Department of Health but no response had been received at the time of going to press.