Mr Robin Swann, the North Antrim Ulster Unionist Party Assemblyman and UUP Leader, has called for “radical and tough new laws to be introduced for people found guilty by the courts of burglary of National Health Service property”.
Assemblyman Swann issued his call as he condemned the burglary at a hospital in Ballymena, which resulted in "significant damage" to computers, according to police.
It happened at a building within the grounds on Braid Valley Hospital some time between close of business on Wednesday and 08:20 GMT last Thursday.The internal doors of the building were also damaged in the burglary.
Police said there had been "a number of similar incidents" at the site and appealed for witnesses to contact them. The hospital is sited within Braid Valley Care Complex, but it does not cater for inpatients.
Instead, it provides a number of community hospital services, including x-ray, physiotherapy, podiatry and a range of outpatient services. The complex also houses Ballymena Health and Care Centre and Slemish Community Services Centre, according to the Northern Health Trust.
Assemblyman Swann said: “I utterly condemn this wanton vandalism at the Braid Valley and I call on constituents or anyone who has information on these burglars to give whatever information they can to the police so that these mindless thugs can be brought before the courts and convicted.
“There is the real danger that because of these burglaries, coupled with our struggling health service, that these irresponsible actions could delay treatments to people who require urgent care.
“Just as I have called in the past for tough new laws to combat those who attack our health and emergency staff, I am now calling for equally tough new laws to impose very stiff penalties – including heavy fines and lengthy jail terms – on anyone found guilty by the courts of vandalising or burgling health service property or equipment.
“The police and the courts must be given whatever resources are necessary to stamp out this mindless thuggery against our severely under-pressure NHS. What happened at the Braid Valley is another crucial reason why we urgently need a Stormont Executive back in place as soon as possible with a fully functioning Justice Ministry,” said Assemblyman Swann.