17/06/2012 Sunday Politics Northern Ireland


Tara Mills looks at the political developments of the week and questions policy makers on the key issues.

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A health service under pressure - we ask the Minister at Edwin Poots


Howard can recover. And will they or won't they? We


Apology for the loss of subtitles for 1613 seconds


lookout the significance of the Hello, and welcome to the Sunday


politics in Northern Ireland. It has been a difficulty here for the


health minister. The deaths of four premature babies -- babies from


pseudomonas, the crisis in Accident and Emergency, and the controversy


over blood donation. Lifting the ban on gay people seems as far away


as ever. The important right are the right


of the person receiving the blood to have confidence the blood will


not infect them with something else. A, the history of a handshake - as


Martin McGuinness ponders, we look back as how -- at how history has


been shaped by the joining of hands. And my studio guests, Sue Ramsey,


chair of their health committee, and an County Omagh GP.


He was described as brave for closing the city's Hospital ent E.


But when things are drunk Edwin Poots was the man in the firing


line. I spoke to the health minister on Friday and began by


asking him how he reflects on the past 12 months. It has been an


interesting time in my life. I regard it as a fantastic


opportunity. I feel very privileged to do this job, and as their look


back it has been idea of height and lows. This pseudomonas outbreak,


for example, that was probably the lowest point. We had the challenge


is about accident at a bridge at the department's, those were


difficult things. -- we had challenges about Accident and


Emergency departments. We recently got the state electronic care


record, which will enable consultants to work more closely


with GPs and have a more fluid cyst -- system within the health service.


We will be opening the new hospital in the south-west this week. Those


are really exciting and good things and it is great to be involved in


those. When it comes to Accident and Emergency, there is a sense


among health professionals you are backtracking on a commitment to the


A&E hospital. Have you had your fingers burned over what happened


with the City Hospital? I never made any -- any commitment


to close Causeway Accident and Emergency. The Compton review


suggested at least have, and that is on the list of potential


closures. The Compton review recommended we would have five or


seven hospitals, and people made an assumption that hospital may close


as a result of that. I think it is important to maintain public


confidence. Is the public confidence at the moment? There


have been suggestions it is not safe, at the close Causeway


Hospital, and those arguments were used about the city hospital when


it closed. The hospitals are incompatible. City Hospital is one


mile from the Royal. Because we is thought to miles from antrum and 30


miles from another hospital. There was quite a challenge in getting


people in emergency situations to that alternative force will have --


to alternative facilities. The challenge we have with the causeway


is that it retains the skill base and the amount of work that is


required. I am putting it back to the people who manage that hospital,


the clinicians within the hospital, and I have no desire to take


services away from that facility. They need to demonstrate to me they


can perform those services in a safe and sustainable and resilient


away, and that is what needs to be done. There are some decisions


coming up that you have to make. When will you decide on allowing


gay people to donate blood or not? Interestingly enough, I have


received two back pieces of correspondence this week. One was


from my southern counterpart, James Riley, who is indicating they do


not intend to change their position, which is a permanent deferral, and


it is not just about HIV but other blood borne viruses. There was a


second piece of work done recently by the European Council. It


indicated the majority of states in Europe, which goes beyond the


European Union, all 54 states would be opposed to moving away from a


permanent deferral. I think the people who engage in higher risk


sexual behaviour in general should be excluded from giving blood. If


someone has sex with someone enough to cut or has sex with prostitutes,


I am very reluctant about those people being able to give blood. I


am certainly range it -- raising a whole range of areas. One of the


things that is important is that we retain confidence in the system.


This system has worked for many years, so to work away from


something that is actually working, the old saying, if it isn't broke,


don't fix it. But if people feel they are being discriminated


against? The rights that are important are


the rights of the person receiving the blood to have confidence that


blood is not something that is going to infect them with something


else. Is the blood not screened before it is passed on any way?


The tears. There is some blood that comes in and has turned round very


quickly, and there can be problems arising as a result of that.


will you stop donations from England, Scotland and Wales? They


do not have his ban. The first element of the screening


is to remove people who engage in risky behaviour. The second element


is the scientific element, and that will look at the blood itself. What


we have actually works by removing people we engage in what is


perceived as being risky behaviour and it actually works very well in


the second element of the screening. By will receive blood from other


areas whenever I mediate, the Republic of Ireland or other parts


of the UK. -- whenever I needed. Aga officials advising this is a


good idea, or is this how you feel about it?


I have taken advice from a range of people. I have conflicting advice


on it, which is part of the problem. Some people would say, we think we


could go ahead with it, and others are saying we would prefer not to


do that. That can be quite significant. How can you justify it


went the minions of people who live in the rest of the UK are, in your


opinion, were exposed to risk? It is not particularly difficult to


justify whenever North America doesn't do it. The vast majority of


Europe has said that they have no intention whatsoever of changing it.


There are only a few countries in the world who have taken a similar


line to the UK. When it comes to the future of the


Health Ministry, the hunt is likely to be run again in the autumn


because of the dissolution of the Department of Employment and


learning. Will the DUP take on the health portfolio again?


I would imagine so, unless someone else tries to take it before us. We


have enjoyed -- we have a job to do. It is a big job. It is the largest


department in Government. It has taken some time to turn it around


and get it pointed in the right direction.


So Sue Ramsey, you are chair of the health committee and it is your job


to scrutinise his did -- his decisions. What is your view on


blood decisions? My view is that he is bringing his


own prejudices into play here. Edwin Poots, when it suits him,


says that he takes his line from the British Government. You


actually highlighted the fact that this ban does not exist in England,


Scotland and Wales. He also highlighted that we have a robust


screening programme. We are crying out for blood, it is an issue of


equality and we have a screening programme to ensure every drop of


blood is safe for people. He denies it is his own personal opinion, he


admits there is conflicting advice, but as a committee can you change


his mind? We will, we can ask for the reports


he is referring to. He talks about parity, but he is breaking his


parity with England, Scotland and Wales. It is a matter of equality.


The issue is that blood is screened. We have a robust screening


programme and we are crying out for blood donation. We have had to


bring in blood from the UK because we need it. Anyone that is giving


blood will be screened, so we did not go down this line of his own


prejudice coming into play. let's look at some of the wider


health issues. You come from our area which has


lost its ENT services. That is having a knock-on effect in other


parts of Northern Ireland. -- lost its Accident and Emergency services.


We fought very hard in County -- format to save our services. We


did highlight that it would put pressures on all the Govan hospital


and the Ayr hospital. -- the earn hospital. That it -- the low point


for me was the death of the gentleman in the Royal Hospital. It


highlights that being E services are overstretched, and my own


patient to complain when they attend the hospitals that they have


very excessive times to wake. -- my own patient do complain. If a GP


refers for assessment, many patients are asked to attend


Accident and Emergency. The Erne Hospital Has an assessment unit


where patients can be assessed and that is a better system. There is


another side to it, isn't there? There are people in Accident and


Emergency he should not be there. But is there then that not pressure


on people like yourself to provide a service to stop people going to


accident adamant that the in the first place?


That is right, this is why there is call location between the accident


and unedited apartment and the GP out-of-hours service. -- Accident


and Emergency department. GPs are happy to treat General Medical


cases to allow Accident and Emergency to be freed up for


genuine emergencies. That is appropriate. It will give the


patients a better service with shorter waiting times. We also --


often hear that politics overrides the health service because people


are looking over their shoulders for votes. Do you think that has


come to an end? I am there to ensure my


constituents get the best service they are entitled to. I am not


coming up this from a political point of view. It is about ensuring


that health is three at the point of delivery, there is a quality


around the health services, and there is an issue with making a


decision to close one hospital, the impact it has on other hospitals.


For a long time we were not looking beyond the boundaries of health


trusts. We need to look at the impact of a decision in one area


and how that can have an impact on another of area.


The you think it was wrong to close the city hospital?


We are still told that is only a temporary decision, so I think they


need to be honest with people. We have seen that the problems the


Royal Hospital has been under. That is the system within hospital


services. In politics, a handshake can help


seal the deal or change the mood. But the timing has to be right. We


have a report on the importance of Handshakes have provided some of


the most seminal moments in political history, and not just in


Ireland. Some gestures appear highly significant at the time and


lead nowhere. I suppose the most famous example would be the


handshake on the lawn of the White House between Yitzhak Rabin and


Yasser Arafat. The peace process then went into the sand. That did


not have a long lasting impact. There are other cases, I suppose.


The most iconic one would be Nelson Mandela putting on that the


Springbok jersey at the final of the World Cup in 1995.


The sculpture, entitled reconciliation cannot was inspired


by the end of the Second World War. It was unveiled at Stormont 12


years ago by David Trimble, one of several symbolic axe at a difficult


time in the peace process. Some gestures undoubtedly help to


underpin the political process, but not everyone is impressed. These


things are hyped for the optics, and sometimes for the gullible, to


try and pretend there is more significant than what lies behind.


I think that is not the real historical significance of any of


that in a handshake, handshakes and back-slapping. We have seen that,


Ian Paisley back-slapping Bertie Ahern, all of that.


Traditionally, handshakes have been seminal. They are important, they


show leadership and demonstrate growth in political maturity. But


that kind of growth only comes with integrity, and I think the general


public absolutely understand whether a gesture has integrity or


not. The Queen's visit to the book last


year and were gestures of reconciliation and respect mark a


new age in Anglo-Irish relations. The visit was highly significant in


terms of being the cherry on top of the final culmination of a process,


it really kind of sealed the deal in saying that Britain and Ireland


had a very different relationship. Here is a handshake that means a


lot in Ballymena. The council has elected its first ever nationalist


Mayor. Whatever the issue on the Sinn Fein's internal debate, most


people believe Martin McGuinness should meet the Queen and so rather


than later. The Queen went to the south of Ireland and was made very


welcome, so why don't see why she should not be made welcome up here.


They're supposed to be working together now, you know, and it is


about time that Martin McGuinness met the Queen. I think it might be


too early. For him or for her? For Martin. You think now is not


the right time? Not right away. would just make people want to live


together and agree more. You think it is that important if he was to


make such a gesture? I think it would help. Copies of this


sculpture have been installed in other countries where there has


been division and conflict. Sinn Fein's Division once again will


draw international attention to Northern Ireland and how our


politicians deal with reconciliation.


Sue Ramsey, obviously you party colleague highlighted on this


programme last week that the continuing problems around this


issue. When you think a final decision will be made by Martin


McGuinness? It will be made by a our national Executive, so I don't


want to pre-empt or speculate on what they will want to say. On the


issue of handshakes, it was interesting to hear Jim Allister. I


would be happy the day Jim Allister said good morning to me. There is a


lot of work still to be done their. One day, me and Jim will actually


have a cup of tea. Your party leader obviously shook hands with


many different people back in the 1990s and in the early decade


following, do you see this as the final piece of the jigsaw?


I think so. I think Her Majesty the Queen blazed a trail in Anglo-Irish


relations and demonstrated the need for reconciliation and the need to


go forward positively. I think all of us being able to shake hands is


the next step on that journey. He writes, fagging and the National


Trust branded a disgrace. All end up weeks' work as Stephen Walker


looks back in 60 seconds. Gay right Gay rights caused trouble with the


Unionists. By day I grew up believing that same-sex marriage


and Sensex relationships was not right.


At Stormont, others had difficulty keeping quiet.


Pilot wanted to shut down one of Belfast's imports. Conservationists


took a swing at plan for a Gulf course, leaving some supporters


teed off. -- a Gulf course. The National


Trust should change their name to a national disgrace.


Arlene Foster told the Co-op to but out of the flagging debate.


At one MLA fluffed her lines. We will see if they're getting rid


It is a big week in Enniskillen, obviously it will have an impact


for people from our own, as well. Do you welcome the new St Helens


and Whiston are I absolutely do. We need high-quality clinical


services. I have no doubt the people of all map will support this


fabulous new hospital. It represents state of-the-art


technology and I hope we will recruit top nursing and consultancy


staff. Is it an example of how we can make mature decisions, and on


this occasion people and County our own missed out in favour of the


people of County Fermanagh. We think this is a signal to the rest


of Northern Ireland of how things will be in the future?


I don't think the people will adopt a dog in the manger approach, if we


don't get acute services we will not support Enniskillen. I don't


think that will happen. We're riddled to get our own new local


enhanced hospital by 2015. That will provide a lot of local


services for the people and I think that many valuable services will be


delivered locally, as it should be. It is difficult though. On the


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