Cllr Anne McCloskey has revealed that medical and nursing staff across the north have been in touch with Aontú regarding the pressures on the emergency departments in local hospitals.

Cllr McCloskey said: “We’ve been hearing from staff that often very ill and frightened people, including children are having to wait hours for assessment. There are many harrowing stories. Many of those doctors and nurses who’ve been in touch tell stories of empty wards, closed outpatients, staff being asked to take annual leave, yet A&E departments are snowed under with cases which should rightly have been seen and triaged in the community before planned secondary investigation and treatment where that was appropriate.

“One story relayed relates to a young mother who experienced symptoms which would normally have been red flagged for a cancer assessment within a few weeks, but which she has been told will now take six to seven months. The stress and worry of this lady and her family can only be imagined”.

“We know that before the virtual mothballing of the routine work of the NHS, waiting lists for diagnostic purposes were unacceptably long. The inevitable massive increase, as a result of the singular focus on the treatment of Covid_19 to the detriment of all other conditions is unacceptable”.

“We know that early in the epidemic, it was estimated by experts in epidemiology that the government’s policy to essentially close the NHS to all other illnesses is likely to cause a possible extra 200,000 cancer deaths in England and Wales. The figures will be proportionally similar in the north of Ireland. People are dying because they can’t access diagnostic tests and timely treatment. This is simply not acceptable in a society which claims to care for the health and wellbeing of people”.

Cllr McCloskey continued: “as a GP, I have returned to work throughout this period of crisis. Many constituents are reporting that they cannot get appointments with their GPs and are instead presenting to the Out of Hours service. Many, especially the elderly are too frightened of dying alone in hospital, without the comfort of family and friends, and they do not seek medical help”.

“We see that although there have been a low number of deaths from covid in the past three months thank God, deaths at home from treatable conditions such as heart attacks and strokes have increased alarmingly”.

“The emergency departments in Down and Daisy Hill are closed, so that traffic is being diverted to other hospitals, which are becoming overwhelmed. That there has been no screening for breast, cervical, bowel and prostate cancer for half a year now will undoubtedly cost lives”.

“The lack of community support for those with drug and alcohol related problems means that many have relapsed after years, sometimes decades of sobriety. There are reports of increased numbers of suicides, and those with complex physical and intellectual problems are suffering radically reduced services”.

“ That the SF -DUP administration have channelled virtually all of the resources of the health service into managing of Covid at the cost of Cancer, Mental Health, Stoke, and Heart Disease is a massive dereliction of duty. Aontú calls for balance and proportionality in the health service. The immediate reconfiguration of the health service to serve the needs of all people is necessary.