Lagan Valley Hospital A&E Department

Oral Answers to Questions — Health, Social Services and Public Safety – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:15 pm on 23rd April 2001.

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Photo of Francie Molloy Francie Molloy Sinn Féin 3:15 pm, 23rd April 2001

4. asked the Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety to explain how Lagan Valley Hospital was granted permission to build a new accident and emergency department before the acute hospitals review group has given its report on acute services.

(AQO 1298/00)

Photo of Bairbre de Brún Bairbre de Brún Sinn Féin

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.

Photo of Francie Molloy Francie Molloy Sinn Féin

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 —

Photo of Ms Jane Morrice Ms Jane Morrice NIWC

Order. Will the Member please put a question to the Minister?

Photo of Francie Molloy Francie Molloy Sinn Féin 3:30 pm, 23rd April 2001

Does she accept that this does not constitute refurbishment and that the actual cost will be in excess of £700,000 rather than £500,000?

Photo of Bairbre de Brún Bairbre de Brún Sinn Féin

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.

Photo of Ms Jane Morrice Ms Jane Morrice NIWC

Our time is up. I thank the Minister.

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

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.

Photo of Ms Jane Morrice Ms Jane Morrice NIWC

There are two other points of order.

Photo of Billy Armstrong Billy Armstrong UUP

In answer to an earlier question, the Minister said that she was not able to fulfil her duties because of her party’s exclusion from the North/South bodies. If that party and its associates were to decommission their weapons and explosives, they would not have a problem.

Photo of Ms Jane Morrice Ms Jane Morrice NIWC

That is not a point of order. Will the Member please refer to the Standing Order to which he is referring.

Photo of Billy Armstrong Billy Armstrong UUP

The Minister said that she is not able to carry out her duties because of her non-attendance at North/South bodies. She could do a good deal of work here in Northern Ireland.

Photo of Ms Jane Morrice Ms Jane Morrice NIWC

Order. I have ruled that this is not a point of order.

Photo of Mr Ivan Davis Mr Ivan Davis UUP

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. In the light of the fact that just four oral questions have been answered this afternoon, will the Minister not consider in future, as a courtesy to the House, answering all the questions in English, as this would not take up so much time?

Photo of Bairbre de Brún Bairbre de Brún Sinn Féin

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.

Photo of Ms Jane Morrice Ms Jane Morrice NIWC

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.

Photo of Alex Maskey Alex Maskey Sinn Féin

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. With reference to the last point of order, I will take guidance from you, but, in my opinion, it was inappropriate for you to refer that question to the Minister. The Standing Order that Mr Davis was referring to is an Order of this House.

Photo of Ms Jane Morrice Ms Jane Morrice NIWC

Order. The question which was originally introduced as a point of order was not referred by the Deputy Speaker to the Minister. The Minister sought to respond immediately on her own behalf.

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Is it not in order for you to step in when it is clear that the Minister is filibustering to avoid later questions?

Photo of Ms Jane Morrice Ms Jane Morrice NIWC

Order. That is not a point of order. We must move on.

Photo of Dr Dara O'Hagan Dr Dara O'Hagan Sinn Féin

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. With regard to the points of order on the Irish language, if proper translation facilities were available in the House, there would be no need to hold up the debate.

Photo of Ms Jane Morrice Ms Jane Morrice NIWC

Order. Time is up. We must move on.