New hospital for Craigavon in limbo as Departments of Health and Finance wrangle over cost

Any future new build for Craigavon Hospital is in limbo as the Departments of Health and Finance wrangle over cost.

Plans for a new hospital submitted by the Southern Health Trust in 2016 were thrown out due to cost and now, a revised Phase One plan costing £151m is in limbo, also due to finance issues.

Following claims by Upper Bann MLA Dolores Kelly that the public is frustrated at the lack of progress on a new build for Craigavon Hospital, this paper as both the Department of Finance and Department of Health for an update on the situation.

Initially the Department of Health responded saying: “The Southern Health and Social Care Trust has long acknowledged the need for the redevelopment of the Craigavon Area Hospital site and has submitted a bid for Phase 1A of the redevelopment as part of a recent capital planning review exercise. The cost of this phase is in the region of £151m. The ability to take forward new capital projects such as this will only be possible if significant and sustained additional capital resources are made available to the Department of Health.”

Meanwhile a spokesperson for the Department of Finance said: “We have not received a business case for a new hospital in Craigavon. Capital allocations for Departments are currently being finalised as part of the Draft 2022-2025 Budget. It is for each Department to prioritise capital projects within their allocations.”

The Dept of Health was asked to respond to claims that the Dept of Finance had not received a business case for a new hospital at Craigavon.

In response the Dept of Health said: “The Southern Health and Social Care Trust has long acknowledged the need for the redevelopment of the Craigavon Area Hospital site. In 2016 the Trust submitted a business case for the full redevelopment of the Craigavon site, but given the total cost, the business case was deemed unaffordable and it was returned to the Trust asking that they consider a phased approach to the redevelopment.

“The Trust has since submitted a bid for Phase 1A of the redevelopment as part of a recent capital planning review exercise. The cost of this phase is in the region of £151m. The redevelopment of Craigavon Area Hospital is one of the priority projects identified by the Department. However given the considerable cost, the ability to take forward new capital projects such as this will only be possible if significant and sustained additional capital resources are made available to the Department of Health.”

Mrs Kelly said she has written to Health Minister Robin Swann asking for an updated timescale for the project.

She claimed she was told by Mr Swann said proceeding with the new hospital would only be possible if capital was provided by Sinn Féin Finance Minister Conor Murphy.

The SDLP MLA said: “The failure to deliver on the new hospital at Craigavon has returned to the forefront of people’s minds after the hospital was plunged into crisis recently when it was forced to turn people away due to pressures caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

“This hospital was unfit for purpose years before the pandemic and now, with our entire health service at breaking point, the outdated facilities are being pushed to their limit, with the resulting impact on patients and staff.

“The Southern Trust’s proposals were first presented to then Sinn Féin Health Minister Michelle O’Neill over five years ago and she said it would be subject to funding, this week I got the same answer from the current Health Minister Robin Swann.

“From then until now Sinn Féin have held the position of Finance Minister in the Executive and still no funding for this much needed project has been forthcoming.

“People are fed up with the lack of progress on this project. Other places have seen key projects proceed in this timeframe, but the people of Upper Bann have been let down time and time again.

“I will continue to press for progress on this project as I have done for too many years already, we’ll keep fighting until we see this new hospital taken forward and local people getting their fair share.”

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