“It is somewhat ironic to hear SDLP representatives lamenting the state of the health service because when they had the chance to do something about it, they failed to do so,” Mr McGuinness said.
“During the recent budget negotiations, my party made four separate attempts to arrange meetings with the SDLP to discuss how we could secure additional funds for Health and a number of other departments, including the SDLP-run Department of the Environment.
“All of those requests were ignored.
“This indicates that the SDLP didn’t want a resolution and are, clearly, more interested in political point scoring than patients or public services.
“The SDLP have incorrectly claimed that Sinn Fein voted for a budget that would involve health cuts at the Executive meeting on October 30th. This is simply not true. Either the SDLP do not understand the budget or they are being deliberately dishonest.
“The reality is that, at the Executive meeting on October 30th, Sinn Fein supported the ring-fencing of the health budget, protecting it from cuts. At that Executive meeting Sinn Fein supported a further £200m increase for our health service in the budget for next year. In stark contrast the SDLP voted against each of these initiatives at the Executive table.
“Bad decisions are being made at a Health Trust level. But these are, in part, a result of mismanagement by successive unionist health ministers. Specific accountability measures were inserted into the draft budget by Sinn Féin to address this mismanagement. Again, this was opposed by the SDLP’s Executive Minister when he voted against the draft budget.
“The SDLP’s lack of strategic thinking was highlighted at the weekend when they rejected any discussion of a pro-agreement strategy to maximise electoral support for the Good Friday Agreement. The SDLP’s lack of strategic thinking is also evident in their approach to the health service which is driven by party politicking and has nothing to do with protecting patients, the health service or the jobs of health workers.”