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The DUP’s Upper Bann MP Carla Lockhart has reiterated her call on Health Minister Robin Swann MLA to get to grips with the cancer crisis gripping Northern Ireland and ensure those who need urgent medical procedures for cancer are not treated as being of secondary importance to Covid-19 patients.

The DUP representative made the call after being contacted by a constituent who had her cancer operation cancelled.

Carla Lockhart said:

“Not for the first time in the last few weeks, I was contacted by a constituent in utter despair and distress at having their cancer operation cancelled at the last minute.

These are lifesaving procedures that are vitally important to a better outcome. Yet directed from the top of our Health Service, operations and other interventions are being cancelled. It is unjustifiable to place one serious illness against another.

I have spoken with cancer nurses and consultants who are equally frustrated at the position they are put in by those setting policy and practice. They know better than anyone the impact this is having on patients. Likewise, our cancer charities are advocating that the Department of Health recognise the cancer crisis that is engulfing Northern Ireland.

Sadly, it would seem that all other conditions, including cancer, are of secondary importance to Covid-19. Yet, NI Cancer Registry indicates that in 2018 there were over 9,500 cancer cases and over 4,500 cancer deaths.

After challenging the cancellation of this elderly constituent’s operation, the decision was reversed. The operation is once again scheduled but for anyone presenting at hospital with a serious illness to be told “not today” is shameful.

The Health Minister must get to grips with this situation. We have heard enough about understanding or having sympathy for people in this situation. We now need a serious, robust and detailed action plan which explains how our hospitals will treat Covid-19 patients and other patients with serious illnesses. He must ensure equal treatment for all.

Deaths resulting from cancelled surgery, cancelled routine examinations or cancelled treatment are, unlike Covid-19 deaths, difficult to quantify but in due course the Health Minister and his officials must be held accountable for the decisions that have been made.”