Is é atá san obair ar an roinn taismí agus éigeandálaí ag Ospidéal Ghleann an Lagáin ná athchóiriú na n-áiseanna reatha le cinntiú go gcoinneofar na seirbhísí atá ann faoi láthair. Chuir mé in iúl go soiléir nár cheart d’obair an athbhreithnithe ar ghéarospidéil aon bhac a chur ar sholáthar leanúnach seirbhísí. Ní gá don iontaobhas cead a iarraidh ar an Roinn le tabhairt faoin obair mar nach dtéann na costais chaipitil thar £500,000.
The work on the accident and emergency department at Lagan Valley Hospital is, in fact, the refurbishment of the current facilities to ensure the maintenance of existing services. I have made it clear that the continued delivery of services should not be impeded by the work of the acute hospitals review group. The trust does not require permission from the Department to undertake the work, as capital costs do not exceed £500,000.
Is the Minister aware that this is a manoeuvre being pulled by the trust to ensure that it does not have to get approval and that the cost, as discussed by the trust, is more likely to be in excess of £700,000 when equipment, and so on, is in place? The Department has said that accident and emergency units, or variations of them, should not be changed until the Hayes review of acute services is delivered. The danger is that if this refurbishment takes place — or what I see as a completely new accident and emergency unit, publicly advertised as such by the trust itself — it could make the Hayes review redundant.
At the same time, in my area hospital, the South Tyrone Hospital, the accident and emergency unit has been closed for 12 months, and people are on long waiting lists in Craigavon. We need to view this not as refurbishing —
I am not aware of any evidence that suggests that the work on the capital costs will exceed £500,000. If that is found to be the case, the trust will require the Department’s permission, and I will have to take the matter up with that trust. However, on the basis that the acute hospitals review should not affect the continued delivery of high-quality services, I expect trusts to take the action necessary to ensure that patient services are up to standard. That includes continued refurbishment, where necessary, in hospitals.
On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Under Standing Order 19(5), the Speaker may from time to time consult the Business Committee on the need to provide additional time for questions. Will the Minister examine the length of some of the answers given? By ensuring that answers are brief and to the point, additional time could be created, and this would enable us to get further than question 4 on the Order Paper.
We have been over this matter several times, and the time taken up by answers in Irish has no impact. Members should consider that oral questions — not written questions — comprising parts (a), (b) and (c) are allowed and that that has a clear impact on the length of answer that a Minister is expected to give.
Order. These points of order have been responded to by the Minister, and that has prolonged this section of Question Time. I will respond to the points of order that have been made. Five questions have been dealt with during this 30-minute period. The first question was amalgamated with question 8. It is important that points relating to the length of questions and their responses be brought to the Business Committee by the Whips. That is where these issues should be discussed.