Health Minister Robin Swann is deeply disturbed that cancer procedures are being postponed and is seeking assurances they will be rescheduled urgently.
The Minister will be looking to the Trusts to reschedule cancelled appointments as soon as they feasibly can and to ensure that patients are kept fully informed.
The Minister said: “This situation is extremely distressing for patients and families and I sincerely apologise for the distress that has been caused.
“This is also a dreadful position for our healthcare staff and hospital managers to be in. The more critically ill Covid patients there are, the less staffing capacity we have in the system for non-Covid services. This is the dire reality that we find ourselves in.
“Stamping down on Covid-19 infection rates is now more critical than ever as reducing our rates helps to protect our cancer and other vital services. As the citizens of Northern Ireland showed earlier this year, our best defence is to strictly adhere to the social distancing and hygiene advice. The protection of our health services is in everyone’s hands.”
Continuing the Minister reflected on the significant pressures that the health service has faced for many years.
He said: “It is no secret that we have long standing staffing pressures in our health service and they unfortunately cannot be fixed in the short term. I am committed to increasing our workforce however it takes years to train specialist staff who are equipped with the knowledge and skills that our health service needs and deserves.”
The Minister concluded: “Should we have a healthier health service? Should we be better able to absorb unexpected crises like a pandemic? Of course, we should. It is a sad reality that after a decade of running on empty it is the exact opposite that has happened.”