Executive urged to build £450m hospital in Northern Ireland
A Northern Ireland town could be set to get a new £450m hospital - if Stormont can find the cash for it - it can be revealed.
The Southern Trust has presented a business case to the Department of Health for a new hospital built on the site of the current Craigavon Area Hospital.
Speaking in response to an Assembly question, Health Minister Michelle O'Neill said the capital costs for phase one of the new build project are estimated to be in the region of £450m.
"The business case will require Department of Health and Department of Finance approval," she said in response to a question asked by SDLP MLA Richie McPhillips.
"Decisions on this project will be considered alongside other capital investment priorities and will be dependent on future budget availability, value for money and affordability."
The current Craigavon Area Hospital opened in 1972, replacing Carleton House, Lurgan Hospital and Banbridge Hospital amongst others as the main acute centre in the region.
It serves an estimated 241,000 people across the Craigavon, Banbridge, Armagh, Dungannon and South Tyrone areas.
Upper Bann MLA Jo-Anne Dobson, who is also a member of the Stormont Health Committee, welcomed the proposal.
"Craigavon Hospital has changed radically since it was opened in 1972 and presents a unique opportunity for a new-build hospital," the Ulster Unionist representative said.
"I welcome the Strategic Outline Case and Outline Business Case being brought forward by the Southern Trust and encourage the Health Minister to represent the Trust at the discussions she is having with the Finance Minister."
Ms Dobson said running a hospital out of old buildings is challenging and has urged the Stormont Executive to approve the proposal.
"The Trust's plans are rightly ambitious as I know the considerable challenges presented by an older building for patients and healthcare professionals alike when it comes to the delivery of modern healthcare," she said.
"I appreciate the response provided to me following my question to the Health Minister confirming that we will have a clearer picture when the discussions around the 2017 budget process have been completed.
"I am hopeful that the proposals for Craigavon Hospital will be met favourably by the Executive."
The South West Acute Hospital on Wolf Lough just north of Enniskillen in Co Fermanagh was the first new hospital to be built in Northern Ireland for more than a decade when it opened its doors in 2012.
The £276m hospital was the first facility of its kind in the province to have single en-suite rooms for every patient.
More than £20m was been spent on equipment, including a £800,000 MRI scanner from Germany - the first of its kind in Northern Ireland.
That hospital was funded through a Private Finance Initiative.