Proposed Cross-Border Pediatric Pathology Solution Welcomed

MLA's have welcomed confirmation the health officials in both Northern Ireland and the Republic are exploring the possibility of an all-Ireland paediatric pathology service.

It follows the regrettable news earlier this month that postmortems on babies and children from Northern Ireland will no longer be available due to a shortage in specialist staff.

The service was planned to be transferred to the Alder Hey Children's NHS Foundation Trust in Liverpool, a move widely condemned due to its potential of increasing the time-scale of post mortem examinations and worsening the turmoil felt by parents and relatives following an infant's death.

Sinn Fein MLA Pat Sheehan expressed his support for the move and reiterated the unacceptable prospect of transferring the service to England.

"The recent announcements by the Belfast Trust and the Health Board that the current perinatal and paediatric pathology service in the north will cease is deeply concerning," the party's Health spokesperson said.

"It means that in the future grieving parents will face having to travel to Liverpool to access this sensitive but important service.

He added that such a move would be "unsustainable".

"All-Ireland cross-border paediatric pathology services are a more acceptable alternative for people affected in the north rather than having to travel to England in very difficult circumstances.
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"I have written to the Health and Social Care Board seeking clarification as to whether cross-border paediatric pathology services were meaningfully explored from the outset in advance of its decision to outsource the service to Liverpool."

SDLP MLA and fellow Health spokesperson, Mark Durkan, also expressed his approval of the possibility of a cross-border service, and questioned why such an agreement was not suggested earlier.

"Whilst I welcome the response from Mr Pengelly (Permanent Secretary of the Department of Health) that alternative Paediatric Pathology solutions are being explored, including a cross-border option and the possibility of using new emerging technologies, I lament the fact that these discussions did not commence sooner.

"I am also currently awaiting a response from ROI Health Minister, Simon Harris TD, having written to him underlining the benefits of collaboration on this issue.

"If these considerations had been taken on board initially, we could have avoided this situation altogether," the Foyle MLA added.

"I hope that a decision is reached as quickly as possible to resolve the deficit in local paediatric pathology services and in turn prevent further distress to families here in their darkest hour."

The issue follows outrage from various Northern Ireland politicians at the proposed outsourcing of the service.

UUP Councillor and Lord Mayor of Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon council Julie Flaherty hit out at the news, recalling the "nightmare" experience she endured when her two-year-old son died in 2013.

She said: "I'm furious that the experience we were forced to go through will now be imposed upon so many more parents in Northern Ireland."


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