Hospitals won't be built until 2022, warns minister
It will be 2022 before new women and children's hospitals are complete in west Belfast, the health minister said yesterday.
Funding arrangements mean work will not even begin for another seven years, Michael McGimpsey added.
He was speaking after the Assembly heard warnings that any delay will be counted in the effect on people's health.
The minister said: "This timetable is completely unsatisfactory for me, and I know for many others.
"I want to be able to progress this work much more quickly.
"However, as I have already stated, I am faced with competing demands to replace and refurbish buildings which are no longer fit for purpose."
The women's hospital is due for completion in financial year 2017/2018, the children's in 2021/22.
The minister said programmes like developing the Ulster and new centres in Omagh and Enniskillen were ahead of the children's hospital in the queue.
He claimed he had not received enough money from the Department of Finance and Personnel (DFP) to address a historic deficit in money for new hospitals, although health spending is responsible for a large chunk of the overall budget.
"The profile (of spending) has a major trough from 2013 to 2016 which can only be described as the Valley of Death during which there's virtually no funding to start any major projects," he added.
"It is nothing like enough and the way that it comes as far as the profile is concerned isn't serving our purposes or anything like it. The level of funding is insufficient to meet demands.
"If I could I would build the women and children's tomorrow, I would launch it right now if I could, the funding isn't available."
An extra £250m would be needed to allow the development within the ten-year investment strategy period.
A Sinn Fein motion proposed that the Assembly calls for funding for a new regional hospital for women and children. It was passed unanimously.
Gerry Adams said it was fair enough to talk of sums needed to complete the project.
"But the cost of not proceeding with the new regional hospital for women and children, or of further delaying it, will be counted in the health of our women and children; as well as in confusion and adverse effects on future planning by health trusts across the north," he added.
"So it makes bad economic sense to delay this project.
"This is the time for firm decisions; a clear timetable for the commencement and completion of a new regional hospital for women and children on the Royal site and financial commitments in respect of this."