Health Minister Michelle O'Neill full of praise for 'wonderful' new £13m NI Hospice
Michelle O'Neill meets patients and staff at reopened facility Stormont helped fund
The "valuable" work of the team behind the £13m Northern Ireland Hospice has been praised by the new Health Minister.
Michelle O'Neill was speaking as she visited the new facility yesterday after it reopened following a major two-year refurbishment.
The 18-bed unit now has the equipment and staff expertise to enable it to reach out beyond cancer care and offer palliative and end-of-life services to those with conditions such as dementia, motor neurone disease and respiratory illnesses.
Presently, NI Hospice cares for around 3,000 adults, young people and children each year through the adult inpatient unit, day hospice services, hospice at home care and at the NI Children's Hospice (NICH), based at Horizon House in Belfast.
Established in 1981, it provides a range of services including specialist palliative care both to inpatients and in the community; a regional educational and development service in palliative care; support to carers caring at home, and a bereavement programme for relatives and friends of patients.
During a tour of the hospice Ms O'Neill said: "This wonderful modern facility provides much needed care, and I am pleased that my department was able to provide £2.7m of capital funding to ensure its completion.
"This was a substantial contribution to the overall funding and it is very satisfying to see such an excellent end result."
She also said the facility played a key part in caring for and supporting people with palliative and end-of-life care needs, as well as their families and carers.
Dr Claire White, a consultant in palliative medicine, has been with the NI Hospice since 2010.
She described it as an exciting time for the people who worked there and said the care patients and loved ones received will be much improved.
The new hospice will allow for 20% more patients to be looked after, and improved facilities will allow family members to stay overnight and be with their loved ones when necessary.
"We are really excited about moving back," she added.
Chief executive Heather Weir said the care the new hospice provided was "fit for the future needs of local people".
"Care can now be extended beyond cancer diagnosis to offer palliative care to those with neurological and respiratory conditions and those with a dementia diagnosis," she said.
"The new hospice also encompasses a dedicated education and research centre, placing NI Hospice at the very heart of the drive to extend a palliative care approach, training healthcare professionals both locally and internationally."