Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Adams calls for development of a new women and children's hospital at the Royal

10 November, 2008 - by Pat Sheehan


Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP today moved a motion in the Assembly calling for the development of a new women and children's hospital at the Royal. The motion read, "That this Assembly calls for funding for a new regional hospital for women and children; and calls upon the Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety to provide a timetable for the commencement and completion of the project."The following is a copy of Mr Adams' address to the Assembly,

Tá mé iontach sásta le bheith ag labhairt ar son an rún seo inniu. Is abhar an thabachtach é ó thaobh na mná agus na leanaí go háirithe.

For the last 14 years, many of us have been campaigning for a new regional hospital for children & women.

The campaign to retain maternity services at the Royal began in the mid-90s.

About 6 years ago, the then Minister for Health announced that the new regional hospital for Women and Children would be sited at the Royal Hospital.

Soon afterwards the Jubilee Maternity and Royal Maternity were amalgamated.

A new hospital was to follow.

It hasn't happened.

The new regional hospital for Women and Children is an urgent necessity.

The evidence for this is overwhelming.

In July, I hosted a briefing for MLAs here in this building and no one listening to the arguments of the Trust, the staff or those women who had recently delivered children, could be in any doubt about the significance or urgency of this project.

I know that the Health Committee recently visited the Royal to see for itself the conditions which prevail.

I welcome the efforts of the Maternity Liaison Group and others in the community and voluntary sector and local political parties to unify behind a renewed campaign for the children's and women's hospital.

I am aware that they have written to all political parties in this Assembly and next week will see the launch of the 'Time to Deliver' campaign.

I also want to praise the care given over many decades by men and women in our health care service.

Providing care to those in greatest need is made all the more difficult where facilities are outdated and/or poorly maintained.

Many sections of the present Children's Hospital and Maternity unit are within buildings which are 60 to 70 years old.

As a result there are problems with general maintenance and with space for patients and administration.

The reality is that no one, including the Minister, disputes the wisdom of the provision of specialist health care for women and children in a new integrated regional hospital for Women and Children at the Royal.

This is especially true of the essential lifeline services for women or children with serious health complications.

Minutes can make a difference.

Therefore Ceann Chomhiarle there must be no further delay in the commencement of this project.

Inevitably there is talk of costs; of how much will be needed to commence the project and complete it. And all of that is fair enough.

But the cost of not proceeding with the new regional hospital for Women and Children, or of further delaying it, will be counted in the health of our women and children; as well as in confusion and adverse effects on future planning by Health Trusts across the north.

So it makes bad economic sense to delay this project.

This is the time for firm decisions; a clear time-table for the commencement and completion of a new regional hospital for Women and Children on the Royal site, and financial commitments in respect of this.

This Assembly has a huge opportunity to make a positive impact on this issue by unanimously endorsing this motion.

The Minister has the responsibility to end the uncertainty and begin the real work of providing this essential facility.

The Minister now needs to give everyone clarity about the timetable for commencing clearance work and the beginning of construction and completion work.

Of course, such a facility, if it is to meet the 21st century needs of women and children has to be a state of the art resource providing the best and most modern health care available.

This makes it a costly project - somewhere in the region of £400m to build.

But the first step is for money to be cleared now for the necessary on-site clearance and decant work to begin.

Securing money from the Department of Health for this work to begin is a major priority.

The Department of Health will spend £728 million on capital projects in the three year period 2008-2011.

It is a source of disappointment that the Department has not made the new regional hospital for Women and Children a priority in that period.

In April the Minister acknowledged that the new regional hospital is 'badly needed' but he has refused to provide, and I quote, a "timetable for the completion of the new hospital at this stage."

This failure by the Department of Health to give the new regional hospital for Women and Children 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 and children's services across the north.

Health Boards are naturally reluctant to spend money expanding or renovating smaller maternity units in the expectation that the new regional hospital for Women and Children will be built.

A recent example of this is public concern about Lagan Valley maternity.

All of this at a time when birth rates have been rising steadily across the six counties over recent years.

In the last year, more than 5,500 children were born in the Royal Jubilee maternity hospital.

There can be few things more important for society than the provisions of health facilities and resources.

In particular facilities that save lives and especially the lives of women giving birth or the lives of babies and children.

A few months ago I had the opportunity to visit the Royal and witnessed myself the care and compassion provided by nurses and doctors to some of the most vulnerable infants.

One child was so small I could have cradled it in my hands.

The reality is that no one disputes the wisdom of the provision of specialist health care for women and children in a new integrated regional hospital for Women and Children at the Royal.

This is especially true of the essential lifeline services for women or children with serious health complications.

Every minute matters, particularly when a child is being brought into this world.

The Minister now needs to give everyone clarity about the timetable for commencing clearance work and the beginning of construction and completion work.

It is time to deliver.

Go raibh maith agaibh.

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