Family outraged over heart move

Liam Clifford INLM1813 011
Liam Clifford INLM1813 011

PARENTS of a Lurgan child have called a top level meeting with Health Minister Edwin Poots after the Belfast Health Board recommended children’s heart surgery cease in Northern Ireland.

Liam Clifford, who has just turned three, and his parents Gerald and Joanne aim to lobby the minister for a change of heart after the proposals that services should be moved south of the border.

A review which concluded that heart surgery at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children was no longer sustainable has been rubbished by dad Gerald who predicted children will die if they are forced to travel to Dublin for surgery.

“We are not happy about it,” said Mr Clifford, who is manager of Superdrug in Lurgan. “We felt the best option at the time is to keep Belfast open as part of a network with Dublin. They are just lifting the services out of Belfast and transferring them to Dublin.”

Liam has Pulmonary Atresia and he started to show signs of complications just six hours after he was born and was transferred from Craigavon to Belfast. He had heart surgery at ten days old.

“My son’s second surgery was actually done in conjunction with a surgeon from Belfast and a surgeon from Dublin so the network already exists,” said Gerald.

“What we are campaigning for as parents is to enhance and build on that partnership. Myself and my wife attended focus groups and we have been right through the whole process, the focus groups the public meetings, we have observed on the working group.

“It was clear to me, that from the Belfast Trust’s point of view about how can we maintain the service somewhere else - it was never about how can we maintain it or provide a service within Belfast.”

Gerard said his family are very friendly with Odhran Gallagher, who has a CHD and his mum Charlene who were featured in last week’s Lurgan Mail.

“The ordeal that lady went through, having to go over the Birmingham for four weeks and ending up being there for nearly eight weeks away from family. Although it will be on a lesser scale, it will be an ordeal for families to have to go away to Dublin as well. Yes it’s better than going to England but lifting a child from its mother when it just born and transferring it 100 miles down the road - I don’t think it’s good for either the child or the mother.

“We are not giving up the fight for Belfast and we aren’t prepared to accept second best. I could name you more than one child who would not be alive today if they had to make that journey to Dublin. They just wouldn’t have made it.

“Liam is doing great. We have been quite lucky in that respect.”

Gerald and his wife were among those protesting at Stormont yesterday (Wednesday). They held meetings with MLAs and have requested a meeting with Mr Poots.

“This potentially will cost lives. The health board has put the minister in this position. The minister is going to take all the flack while the board sit back. But they are the ones who really put the knife in the plan. If a child dies on the road to Dublin the responsibility for me lies with the board and the Belfast Trust.”