24/02/2003

Mixed reaction to hospital announcement

The acute hospital services decision, which has attracted months of impassioned argument from health professionals, public representatives and community leaders, garnered as much support as it did opposition.

With many advocates of the Omagh proposal saying that the move could yet be challenged in the courts.

Sinn Fein MP for West Tyrone – the constituency where Tyrone County Hospital is sited – Pat Doherty, said he was "deeply disappointed".

"It's a decision that is full of contradictions and has entirely ignored the response from the Southern health minister, Michael Martin," he said.

"This isn't the end of the campaign for us, we will review this document and come at it in a thorough way – including the possibility of a legal challenge."

However, Mr Doherty conceded that overall "good work has been done" in the health service across Northern Ireland.

His party colleague, Sinn Fein MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, Michelle Gildernew welcomed the move and urged the Minister to implement the proposals at the earliest opportunity.

SDLP assembly member for west Tyrone Joe Byrne described the move as "deeply flawed".

"It's contrary to all objective criteria that should have been duly accessed in order to determine the best location," he said.

He went on to express his "disappointment" that former health minister Bairbre de Brun postponed the original decision when she was in office.

The chairman of Fermanagh District Council Councillor Gerry Gallagher said that whilst he understood the solution was "painful to many", the decision was "fair and right".

He added: "The impact which this decision has on our community, not only on the future health care services of our people… but also on the economy of this area, cannot be overstated. The right decision has been made, the right decision based on the three issues highlighted by us from the start of our campaign – accessibility, sustainability and equity."

Mr Gallagher's opposite number at Cookstown District Council, Councillor Patsy McGlone said there would be "serious repercussions" for Mid-Ulster. Mr McGlone said that there would be meetings to consider legal recourse on the matter.

He added: "The removal of life-saving services from the Mid Ulster Hospital will leave the people of the area with nothing more than a glorified Health Centre which is something with neither the scope or capacity to best serve the needs of the community."

(GMcG)

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