Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Positive Decisions on Regional Women's and Children's Hospital needed now - Adams

24 June, 2008

The west Belfast MP Gerry Adams MLA, Sue Ramsay MLA and Jennifer McCann MLA, and the new Belfast Mayor Cllr. Tom Hartley today visited the Royal Hospital to be briefed on plans for the new Regional Women's and Children's Hospital, and the very real worries that now exist about the future of this project.

They met Denise Stockman, Director of Planning & Redevelopment, Belfast Trust and Bernie McNally, Director of Social Services, Family and Childcare, as well as other senior staff.

The Sinn Fein delegation also visited the Children's hospital and the Royal and Jubilee Maternity Hospital.

Speaking after the meeting with the officials Gerry Adams urged Michael McGimpsey, the Minister of Health to "take immediate and urgent steps to ensure that new Regional Women's and Children's Hospital is prioritised in any review of current /future spending by the Deptartment of Health; and that in the first instance, funding is secured (approx.£32m) to begin the essential work of site clearance in the immediate future".

Mr. Adams said:

"The adverse implications for the future care and treatment of children and women in Belfast and across the north, if the Minister fails to deliver this desperately needed Regional Women's and Children's Hospital, are enormous.

"Many sections of the existing Children's hospital and the Maternity are too old.

"Consequently, the health risks to expectant and delivering mothers, to babies and young children, are too great for the Minister to push this critical health project further back down his list of priorities.

"A previous Health Minister, Bairbre de Bruin announced in 2002 the construction of the Regional Women's and Children's Hospital. The hospital was costed at around £400m to build.

"This was later confirmed by a British Direct rule Minister.

"However, in response to questions from Sinn Féin, following remarks by the Minister that suggested the commitment to build the hospital might be in jeopardy, Mr. McGimpsey admitted last November that the new hospital is not within the current three year spending period of the Comprehensive Spending Review.

"In April the Minister again raised a serious question about the construction of the regional children and women's hospital beyond the current three year spending review. The Minister refused to provide a "timetable for the completion of the new hospital at this stage."

"This failure by the Department of Health to give the Regional Women's and Children's Hospital the urgent priority it requires is having a profound and adverse knock- on effect on planning by the Department, Health Boards and Trusts for maternity services across the north.

"The Minister has himself acknowledged that the new hospital 'is badly needed'. But he now needs to take the decisions and provide the funding necessary to prepare the site for the new hospital, and he must announce the capital investment needed to ensure that this project goes ahead in years 4 to 7 of the Comprehensive Spending Review.

"This is a huge health project that is critical to health provision for women and children in the north in the decades ahead. It cannot be put on the long finger. It requires decisive and strategic decisions to be taken by the Minister.

"Sinn Féin has asked to meet him on this matter." ENDS

Note to editor:

Sinn Féin is hosting a briefing on the last day the Assembly sits this term, Tuesday 1st July at 1pm in Room 135, Parliament Bldgs. This is to raise awareness amongst MLAs, especially those on the Health and the Finance and Personnel Committee. Maternity Liaison Committee members are being invited to attend this.

  1. There is also an irresistible gravitational pull in maternity services towards the Royal from other hospitals across the six counties. As outlying hospitals experience strain on their own maternity services, the need for increased capacity makes even greater demands on the existing provision at the Royal.
  2. Furthermore, Health Boards are naturally reluctant to spend money expanding or renovating smaller maternity units in the expectation that the new regional hospital will be built. a recent example of this is public concern about Lagan Valley maternity.
  3. Gerry Adams is receive a briefing from William McKee in a meeting arranged for the 1st July, which will also be attended by members of Sinn Fein's MLAs on the Health Committee, including Sue Ramsey.
  4. An adjournment debate about the new Children and Women's Hospital has been tabled in the name of Jennifer McCann.
  5. A meeting with womens groups was held recently by Gerry Adams office with Sue Ramsey and Jennifer McCann to discuss how to raise awareness about thisd matter.
  6. The Health Committee has written to Minister for Health asking for information about the arrangements being made for the new Children and Womens Hospital.
  7. Sinn Féin agreed to raise the arrangements for the Maternity Liaison Committee to make a presentation to the Health Committee. That presentation will now be made in Sept. 08.
  8. The Dept of Health has received all paper-work from the Belfast Trust in relation to the building project. The only outstanding question is whether the Minister would allocate the funding in one lump sum, or in parts (site clearance / first half / second half).The design of the new hospital has been modified to provide for building to be done in two halves, depending on the funding allocation from the Dept of Health.
  9. If the new Children and Womens hospital is not allocated capital investment in CSR Years 4 to 7 (equivalent to the period 2011 to 2014) then the project itself and the services which depend on it will be done serious damage.

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