Sinn Féin MLA Colm Gildernew has raised his concerns about the Department of Health’s proposed preparations for a winter surge of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The party’s health spokesperson said:
“This week the minister spoke of ‘a full-scale assault’ on the COVID-19 virus as part of his new surge strategy to face down the almost certain winter pressures we are facing.
“I am deeply worried that the minister’s strategy is entirely focussed on managing a potential second surge if/when it comes rather than focusing on preventing and mitigating any spread of the virus now.
“The tools of prevention should be available to us at this point of the pandemic and they must be used to save lives as a priority.
“We need to upscale our preventative measures and reach optimal levels of case finding, testing, tracing and isolating this deadly virus.
“As part of his proposals for managing a second surge, the Minister for Health also announced his plan to place an additional Nightingale facility in the Whiteabbey Hospital. The first Nightingale facility at Belfast City Hospital will also remain available if required in the winter months.
“The Minister of Health needs to explain the reasoning for the decision to concentrate both Nightingale facilities in close proximity to Belfast.
“There needs to be more transparency around the decision-making processes and it would be useful to know if other sites were considered and why they were deemed unsuitable.
“Equality of access to COVID-19 care must be guaranteed to everyone across the north.”