THE father of a young Londonderry lad who underwent life-saving heart surgery in 2004 aged just three months says the potential closure of the Clark Clinic in the Royal is an awful prospect but fears “personal things in life mean nothing to the bureaucrats looking to save a few quid.”
Lincoln Courts resident Neil Bronze said staff at the Clark Clinic were his families mainstay for the “four months of hell when our world fell apart” when his boy Lewis underwent open heart surgery to save his life.
Mr Bronze voiced his concerns following the publication by the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) of a report on Paediatric Congenital Cardiac Services that recommended potential safety risks be addressed within a period of six months.
A 12-week period of consultation on the potential shake-up will end on Friday, December 21, 2012, but a campaign has already been launched to retain children’s cardiac surgery at the Clark Clinic.
Foyle MLA Colum Eastwood, for example, said it was essential that the Clark Clinic remained operational and continued to provide provision to babies and young children in Northern Ireland.
No-one is more familiar with the vital role of the Clark clinic than the Bronze family. Though now a healthy eight-year-old, Lewis’ life hung in the balance shortly after it began back in 2004.
Lewis was born with a Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD) and during the first three months of his life the prognosis was dire. He was kept alive at Altnagelvin before being taken to the Royal for open heart surgery.
The Bronze family’s life was turned upside down for almost half-a-year travelling to-and-fro from hospital to see Lewis whilst caring for two other boys.
“We were constantly up at the hospital. We were watching him slip away basically. He had drips in his head. He had feeding tubes up his nose. He was a mess. It was heartbreaking,” Mr Bronze told the Sentinel.
The prospect of cost-cutting bureaucrats taking the axe to children’s heart surgery in Northern Ireland is not worth-thinking about, according to a father whose boy’s life was saved by the local service.
“I think its awful that there’s a distinct possibility of the removal of children’s heart surgery in Northern Ireland,” said Mr Bronze.
“The life saving actions and after care that Lewis received from the Clark Clinic, and indeed the support we received as a family unit from all concerned, from the heart surgeon, the hospital specialists and paediatricians, right down to the nurses and auxiliary staff and even the ward cleaners, was immense during what can only be described as ‘the four months of hell when our world fell apart.’”
Whilst the review of children’s cardiac care did not identify any immediate safety concerns it concluded that the surgical element of the service was not sustainable.
Health Minister Edwin Poots last week said he was exploring how co-operation with health authorities in Dublin could help ensure that an all-island service was available.
But Mr Bronze says it’s vital a local surgical service remains to ensure families do not have to travel far from home during the most stressful time in their lives.
“Can you imagine the extra stress put on families in the future that will have to re-locate to England, Scotland or even Dublin, at a time when family support is essential?” asked Mr Bronze.
“And what about the other children that exist in these families?” he asked. “It was tough enough for my wife and I to leave our children with family for periods just to go to Belfast, so I pity anyone having to go further afield.”
Mr Bronze, however, expressed the fears likely to be prevalent amongst many of those dependent on the local heart surgery.
“Unfortunately, the personal things in life mean nothing to the bureaucrats looking to save a few quid. I wonder would they view things differently if God forbid, they ever had to go through it.”
After the consultation period is over on December 21 a Working Group is set to develop a post-consultation document, incorporating an analysis of responses and recommendations on the future delivery of services for the population of Northern Ireland.
The Minister will consider this document before making a decision on the future model for provision of paediatric cardiac surgery and interventional cardiology for the population of Northern Ireland in early 2013.