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Women and Children’s Hospital

Health, Social Services  and Public Safety – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:45 pm on 8th June 2009.

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Photo of Basil McCrea Basil McCrea UUP 2:45 pm, 8th June 2009

6. asked the Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety for an update on the women and children’s hospital at the Royal Victoria Hospital.          (AQO 2896/09)

Photo of Michael McGimpsey Michael McGimpsey UUP

The position has remained the same as I advised previously. Due to funding constraints, the scheme will go forward as two separate hospital projects. Current planning assumptions, which are constrained by the Department’s budgetary allocation, mean that site-enabling works are due to start in 2011, with construction of the women’s hospital beginning in 2015-16 and completing in 2017-18. Under the current capital profiles, construction of the children’s hospital is not anticipated to start until 2017-18, with completion expected in 2021-22.

Photo of Basil McCrea Basil McCrea UUP

Does the Minister agree that it is time that OFMDFM and DFP stopped peddling excuses and delivered on re-profiling the investment strategy for Northern Ireland (ISNI) so that the new women and children’s hospital can be built much sooner than planned? Does he agree that it is high time that the DUP, a second-rate party now in second place, should have second thoughts and come together with their partners —

Photo of William Hay William Hay Speaker

Order. The Member knows that a supplementary question must relate to the original question, and he has strayed far from that. I ask the Member to ask a supplementary question on the original question.

Photo of Basil McCrea Basil McCrea UUP

Thank you, Mr Speaker. I beg your indulgence. The point is made.

Does the Minister agree that it is high time that we started to deliver for the women and children of the Province and that Ministers must re-profile the ISNI budget so that we can start the work sooner rather than later?

Photo of Michael McGimpsey Michael McGimpsey UUP

I inherited the ISNI profile. We had a requirement for about £7·8 billion over 10 years for capital investment. Members will be aware of how the Province has been starved of infrastructure. Our allocation was £3·3 billion, and over £700 million has been allocated for the next three years. However, much of that is determined by the profile, which is how much money each Department receives each year, and the profile is determined by whether a Department procures traditionally or through PFI. If it procures through PFI, all the money comes in one year. I have had discussions on that issue with the Department of Finance and Personnel, and I hope to have further discussions with that Department. We need much more flexibility with our profiles. Given the state of the market in London, for example, PFI is not necessarily the best value for money; therefore, the traditional procurement route is the best way forward.

Two weeks ago, the Western Trust signed a contract under a PFI scheme for the new hospital at Enniskillen, which will provide 1,000 construction jobs in Enniskillen over the next three years. That is a welcome investment, and I am satisfied that it meets value for money. I am also satisfied that we will get the hospital built on time and within budget. However, I would like flexibility for future developments.

Photo of Mitchel McLaughlin Mitchel McLaughlin Sinn Féin

Thank you, a Cheann Comhairle. I thank the Minister for his update; however, I am alarmed at the protracted timescale. The Minister would enjoy the support of the Chamber if he were to bring forward work on the women and children’s hospital.

Will the Minister update the House on his discussions with the Minister of Finance and Personnel about funding for that project?

Photo of Michael McGimpsey Michael McGimpsey UUP 3:00 pm, 8th June 2009

I am sure that Mr McLaughlin is well aware that there is a finite Budget and that I was not happy with my Department’s share of it. I fought for and won some more money, and, although that was still not enough, it was as good as I was going to get. My Department’s share of the Budget must get better in order to allow me to bring forward that project. We need a women and children’s hospital; that project is long overdue and should have been started years ago. However, we are where we are; until money comes forward, I cannot further that development profile unless I start to chop other schemes that are just as vital.