01/07/2002

Minister announces £4m cash boost for health

Finance Minister Sean Farren has announced the Health Service in Northern Ireland is to get a £4 million cash boost.

The bulk of the funding allocation, some £3 million will be used for cardiac surgery, with the rest going towards other types of operations.

The extra cash for health spending has come about as the result of other Stormont departments underspending their budgets.

The money will be used to fund additional cardiac operations outside the province. The only cardiac surgery carried out is in the Royal Victoria Hospital, where facilities have consistently failed to reach targets for the number of operations performed each year. This has resulted in a backlog of up to 600 patients waiting for surgery.

With some patients waiting up to two years for cardiac surgery the extra funding will allow around 300 patients to have surgery outside the province.

Already around 250 patients a year are attending for surgery in the UK.

The additional funding has been welcomed by the Ulster unionist health spokesperson the Reverend Robert Coulter.

The North Antrim MLA said that the current situation where a small number of patients received surgery and the other had to wait was "inhumane".

However, he said that allocation of £7 million to clear the waiting list once and for all would enable the Department of Health and Social Services to assess the needs of cardiac services without the restrictions imposed by waiting lists.

The round of funding allocations announced by the Finance Minister identified reallocations of almost £120 million which will be used to address priority areas.

The big winners were health, which is to receive around £40 million, and education with an allocation of £12 million.

(SP)


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