Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Health Minister urged to prioritise Regional Women’s and Children’s Hospital - Adams

1 July, 2008

Sinn Féin today hosted a briefing in Parliament Buildings on the need for a Regional Women's and Children's Hospital.

This is part of the party's efforts, along with others, to press the Minister of Health Michael McGimpsey to prioritise investment in this vital project at the Royal Hospital.

Those who participated in the briefing included: Gerry Adams, MP; Jennifer McCann, MLA; Liz Bannon, Royal and Jubilee Maternity; Joy Poots, Royal & Jubilee Maternity Liaison Committee; Bronagh McCann, project manager, Regional Women's and Children's; and Kieran Smyth , Architect. Others who attended included Michelle Gildernew, Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development and Gerry Kelly, Junior Minister in the OFMDFM.

Members of the Maternity liaison committee and MLAs from the Health Committee and Finance and Personnel Committee also attended, as did as number of women and their babies who recently gave birth in the Royal and Jubilee Maternity.

Thanking all of those who participated in the briefing and commenting on the need for a Regional Women's and Children's Hospital Mr. Adams urged 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 Dept 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:

"Last week, I had the opportunity to visit the existing hospitals and witnessed the care and compassion given by nurses and doctors to some of the most vulnerable infants.

"When it comes to a persons life-chances, the first days and first years make a huge impact. So this hospital project is not about buildings - it's about people.

"This Assembly has existed for a year. In that time, we have not heard any good news on the Women and Children's Hospital from the Department.

"I have raised this issue already with the Minister of Health and Sinn Féin has asked to speak to him again about the need for investment in this project to be prioritised.

"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 jeapordy, 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 womens 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." ENDS

Note to editor:

  • The campaign to retain maternity services at the Royal began in the mid-90s. About 6 years ago, the Minister for Health Bairbre de Bruin announced that the new regional centre for Women's and Children's services would be sited at the Royal Hospital, and soon afterwards. The Jubilee Maternity and Royal Maternity were amalgamated.
  • The new regional centre for Children and Womens services will cost about £400m to build. To prepare for the building work on-site, clearance and decant must commence first. Securing money from the Dept of Health for this work to begin is a major priority.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Gerry Adams is receive a briefing from Belfast Health and Social Care Trust 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.
  • An adjournment debate about the new Regional Women's and Children's Hospital has been tabled in the name of Jennifer McCann.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Health Committee has written to Minister for Health asking for information about the arrangements being made for the new Regional Women's and Children's Hospital.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • If the new Regional Women's and Children's 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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