Jim Wells hits back over ‘lack of leadership’ in A&E crisis

Jim Wells defended his response to the A&E crisis last week
Jim Wells defended his response to the A&E crisis last week

Health Minister Jim Wells has defended himself against claims of a “lack of leadership” during the recent accident and emergency crisis.

Last week, health trusts across the Province postponed almost 200 non-urgent operations due to pressures on emergency departments.

On Wednesday, in his first interview since the crisis, the DUP minister told the BBC he only needed to make a public statement to the media “when I believe there is a problem”.

He added: “What I saw was people who were too busy dealing with the huge surge in demand and who did not have time to have me following them around and they were doing a great job. And I was content they were getting through it and the statistics released last Friday showed we did get through it.”

However, Alliance health spokesperson, Kieran McCarthy MLA, said he was “shocked that Jim Wells has tried to claim that there was no need for him to get involved”.

“He is the Health Minister, he should have spoken publicly during a major crisis,” added Mr McCarthy. “His silence showed a lack of leadership.”

But last night, the Health Minister hit back. In a statement, Mr Wells said that “during the recent spike in activity” he was in “ongoing contact” with officials.

“I remained confident throughout that the well-honed plans to deal with the upsurge were being implemented in a manner that was right for the health care system and which would alleviate pressures,” he said.

“Leadership is not about chasing media headlines and making unnecessary public statements. It is about judgment and knowing when intervention is needed, and at no time did I feel the need to intervene politically in what after all is clearly an operational matter.”