Stormont Files - Cross-Border SWAH debate

Published: 7 Feb 2014 17:000 comments

SINN Fein MLA Phil Flanagan has called on Health Minister Edwin Poots to increase greater cross-Border collaboration between South West Acute Hospital and hospitals in the Republic.

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Speaking in the Assembly on Tuesday night, the Fermanagh-south Tyrone representative said the collaboration would deliver services at a reduced cost to the taxpayer.

“We are not here about something negative; we are here to talk about a significant opportunity that exists for the health service locally by working collaboratively with our colleagues in the counties across the Border.”

“The range of specialisms on offer in the hospital also needs to be looked at,” he added, “One of the primary reasons for locating the new hospital in Enniskillen was to maximise the potential for cross-border collaboration,” he said.

Lord Maurice Morrow, a DUP MLA, praised the services on offer at the hospital and agreed with Mr Flanagan’s desire to have more cross-Border co-operation, saying: “I do not have a real problem with that at all. As a matter of fact, I am glad that he has acknowledged that it is uniquely situated to deliver that.”

DUP MLA Arlene Foster said: “I take on board the point that Mr Flanagan made about cross-border working. Of course, if it is to the benefit of patients in Northern Ireland, we will do that.”

On the availability of services at the hospital, Mr Foster told the Assembly: “I understand that the hospital provides over 300 outpatient clinics per week, covering all the main specialities. Although I accept that we would want the maximum amount of services delivered locally - I acknowledge that desire, which is one that I share - I think that we will gain more from the hospital, and, more importantly, more for our patients, if we sell the fact that we have this marvellous facility in the south-west.”

Ulster Unionist MLA Tom Elliott said he fully appreciated the issues around cross-Border cooperation “and, indeed, cooperation throughout the community”.

“When people are in pain and are suffering, and when they have a severe medical condition, they do not care where they are treated provided they get good, honest treatment.”

Mr Elliott went on to claim that he was aware of “some very tragic incidents at the South West Acute Hospital”.

“I have met families who have gone through severe tragedy, and clearly they may not be overly impressed with the service that their loved ones received at that time. However, you have to look at it in general; in the round, it is a first-class hospital that provides a first-class service.”

Sinn Fein MLA Sean Lynch said cross-Border arrangements for the new acute hospital would improve the quality of provision and improve access.

“I want to remind the Member who spoke last that it was a Sinn Fein Minister who delivered the magnificent facility that we have in Enniskillen. I agree with everybody that it is the most modern in Europe.”

Health Minister Edwin Poots told the Assembly that South West Acute Hospital is “well placed for collaborative cross-Border working”.

Responding to the discussion, Mr Poots said:

“Mr Flanagan can press whatever line he likes in the press and media — I know the score.  People appreciate that they have a brand new hospital facility and that it has been well staffed. We have spent an additional £700,000 on nursing staff.  We have taken on an additional cardiologist, an additional consultant in gastroenterology, an additional stroke consultant, two MRI radiologists and an additional physician. 

“That demonstrates that there is not just a new, shiny building but a commitment to staffing to ensure that people are delivered high-quality services.”

Fracking safeguards needed:

ENVIRONMENT Minister Mark H. Durkan has said that going ahead with fracking in Fermanagh without the support of “very strong evidence” which indicates that it is safe to do so would be “reckless and irresponsible.”

The SDLP Minister was responding to a question from Sinn Fein’s Phil Flanagan on the controversial drilling method.

“No applications have been received and hence no decisions on hydraulic fracturing have yet been taken. I have publicly stated my position on hydraulic fracturing on a number of occasions. Granting permission relating to fracking operations will only take place when it has been supported by very strong evidence which indicates that fracking is safe for public health and the environment.”

“That is why I have directed my officials in NIEA to work with the EPA in Ireland to take forward a major programme of research to examine the potential impact of fracking on the environment. This programme of research is currently being progressed and the outcomes of this all-island research will help assist the NIEA in making these important regulatory decisions,” he said.

Erne site transfer to FDC could happen this year:

THE transfer of the former Erne Hospital site to Fermanagh District Council could go ahead this year, according to the First and deputy First Ministers.

Responding to a question in the Assembly by Fermanagh-south Tyrone Phil Flanagan, Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness explained that work is currently underway on the site to procure demolition of existing buildings, to assess and deal with contamination, and to develop business cases as a prelude to the sale of the site by the Western Health and Social Care Trust.

Fermanagh District Council are proposing to transform the site into a public sector hub.

Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness stated that the Executive’s Strategic Investment Board has provided a part-time Project Manger to co-ordinate the activities involved in the sale of the site and has part funded contamination reports.

“A Site Transfer Project Team has been established with representation from the Strategic Investment Board, the current owner of the site and those public sector organisations with an interest in acquiring or occupying the site.”

“We understand that Fermanagh District Council is interested in buying the site subject to certain prior conditions being met in relation to demolition, decontamination and agreements with the South West College. If all goes according to plan, transfer of the site is expected in the next financial year,” said the Ministers.

The Strategic Investment Board will continue to support the actions required for the sale of the site and will be closely involved with the new owners in developing plans for a public sector hub.

“We applaud Fermanagh District Council and the other organisations that are committed to the development of a public sector hub at the Erne Hospital site and we expect this to be an example which others will follow in the future for the delivery of excellent and citizen-focused public services,” said Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness.

Suspended Trust staff receive £845,631 in payments since 2011:

THE Western Health and Social Care Trust has paid out £845,631 to 58 suspended staff members since 2011, according to Health Minister Edwin Poots.

In response to a question by West Tyrone MLA Ross Hussey, Mr Poots explained that in in the last year (2012/13), 33 members of staff were suspended and received £358,149. The average length of suspension during this time lasted four months and of the 33 suspended, 12 were reinstated.

During 2011/12, nine members of staff in the Western Trust were suspended for an average of five months with the Trust paying those members of staff £84,265. Just two of the nine were reinstated.

In 2010/11, the Trust paid £403,217 to 16 members of staff who were suspended, on average, for 10 months.

Seven members of staff were reinstated.

JUSTICE Minister David Ford has revealed to the Assembly that 135 people have been imprisoned for failure to pay fines in Fermanagh and South Tyrone since 2011.

EDUCATION Minister John O’Dowd has confirmed that the anticipated date of opening for the new build for Enniskillen Model Primary School is the third quarter of 2016.

INVEST Northern Ireland’s Jobs Fund has helped create 438 new jobs and helped promote 501 new jobs in the Fermanagh-south Tyrone constituency area since its inception in April 2011, according to Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster.

Mrs Foster, a DUP MLA for the area, was responding to a question in the

Assembly by Fermanagh-south Tyrone Sinn Fein MLA Bronwyn McGahan.

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