Ulster Unionist Health Spokesperson, Jo-Anne Dobson, has warned that patient safety is being compromised following the latest publication of hospital waiting times.
The Ulster Unionist Party candidate in Upper Bann, said the figures confirm a further deterioration with thousands more people now on lists.
“The latest publication of the quarterly waiting times statistics shows that the unprecedented crisis engulfing the Health Service in Northern Ireland is deepening,” she said. “It is outrageous that there are over 246,000 patients waiting for a first consultant-led outpatient appointment.
“More frightening however is the fact that over 47,000 of those have been waiting longer than a year.
“Amongst those waiting will be patients who are genuinely petrified and distressed about delays in their diagnosis, as well as many others in daily pain and discomfort awaiting treatment.
“The Ulster Unionist Party recently revealed for that over half of all the patients here who are waiting for a spinal assessment have been waiting longer than a year. Back pain can be incredibly debilitating and delays in spinal treatment can directly lead to patients coming to harm as chronicity often increases.
“Michelle O’Neill’s neglect and arrogant attitude over recent months was an appalling example of a Health Minister abdicating her responsibilities to patients.
“In fact, as a result of Sinn Fein’s actions in collapsing the Assembly, and the pig-headedness of Arlene Foster in relation to her involvement in the RHI debacle, no Budget has been set and our health service now faces a period of prolonged neglect.
“This, at a time when never before has it required such immediate attention.
“Last year, when the maximum official Executive Target for first outpatient appointments was cruelly increased from 18 weeks to 52, was the clearest example yet that this outgoing and much disparaged Executive did not care about, or recognise the severity, of the plight of patients.
“Unfortunately now, with no functioning Executive and no genuine plan to tackle the crisis, waiting lists will continue to spiral and essential decisions will be further delayed,” she added.
“Politics has been placed ahead of patients. That is an abhorrent situation.”