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Minister Challenged over Maternity Plans

28 February, 2008


Sinn Féin west Belfast MP Gerry Adams has expressed his deep concern at the statement from the Health Minister Michael McGimpsey on Monday which appears to push back the date for the new Maternity Hospital.

West Belfast MP Gerry Adams said:

"If the Maternity hospital is the priority the Minister claims it has then he should be providing a time table for its construction that fits the original plans.

"The right to proper health care for women and children is of paramount importance.

"Many people will be bitterly disappointed that there is no timetable for the new children and women s hospital.

"Sinn Féin will be bringing together women's and community groups, trade unions and other stakeholders to hold the Minister to the promise made of a new regional hospital for children and women at the Royal." ENDS

Note to Editors:

Background:

  1. The new hospital was the focus of a prolonged campaign.
  2. The decision was finally made in 2000, and the Jubilee hospital at the City was closed.
  3. Developing Better Services (DHSSPS 2002) included proposals for new centralised maternity services in Belfast.
  4. Following a Ministerial announcement in 2003 the Royal Hospitals was selected as the site for the new service. In support of this decision purpose-built accommodation is required to meet the needs of modern clinical practice. The new hospitals will be linked and will also have links to the acute hospital site.
  5. In September 2005, direct rule Health Minister Shaun Woodward agreed £2.6m funding to design the new Women's and Children's Hospitals in Belfast.
  6. At that time, he said work was expected to begin to begin on the new hospitals by May 2008, with the first phase of construction due to be completed by 2014 and the entire project completed by 2017.
  7. Other hospitals in the six counties are already beginning to operate on the basis that the regional centre of care for children and women is the Royal - there is a growing momentum to move services and therefore a growing strain on what is there already.
  8. The present state of the buildings at the Royal is already generally poor and improvements could be futile if these older buildings are to be demolished to clear the site for the new children and women's hospital.
  9. The Belfast Health Trust has now submitted its final business case to the Department (within the last month).
  10. The Minister of Health said recently that there would not be enough money to build the hospital in this budget. no money has yet been put aside by the Dept. to even begin site clearance and decant of services to prepare the way for the commencement of the new build.
  11. Gerry Adams raised this all with the Minister in a recent phone-call

Extract from Assembly Hansard (week commencing Monday 25th February 2008) :

New Regional Hospital for Children and Women

4. Ms S Ramsey asked the Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety to provide a timetable for the completion of the new regional hospital for children and women on the site of the Royal Group of Hospitals. (AQO 2230/08)

Mr McGimpsey:

I am actively considering all medium- to longer-term strategic investment proposals, including one for the women and children s hospital. In determining final allocations of capital investment funds beyond the comprehensive spending review period and in light of constraints on capital funding, I will carefully consider and prioritise that investment proposal, alongside many others, when we receive it.

It is not possible to provide a timetable for the completion of the new hospital at this stage.

Ms S Ramsey:

Go raibh maith agat, a LeasCheann Comhairle. I am disappointed with the Minister's answer: I had asked for such a timetable.

Will the Minister confirm that provision of the new regional hospital is a priority for the Department and that he is committed to it? The decision to build the hospital was made more than five years ago and work was expected to begin in May of this year.

Has the Department set aside money for clearing the site so that we can see some progress on the new regional hospital for women and children?

Mr McGimpsey:

The capital bill for that development is £404 million; the capital available for the three-year period is £728 million, all of which is already spoken for. We are examining provision of hospitals in the south-west, and other capital projects.

The women and children s hospital on the Royal Victoria Hospital site is one of the Department s priorities, but we have others. One of those is the Ulster Hospital, phase B, the fabric of which is very poor. We are also examining Craigavon Area Hospital, Daisy Hill Hospital and Altnagelvin Area Hospital. I also give notice that the tower block at Belfast City Hospital requires major investment. There are many large-scale capital projects to finance. One of the key aspects of efficiency is investment. I am examining capital provision, not least for this development.

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