Poots must deliver hospice's £2m now
Several months ago Health Minister Edwin Poots pledged £2m from his department to place the Northern Ireland Hospice appeal on a sure footing. Money was badly needed by the hospice to kick-start its bid to refurbish its headquarters at Somerton House, and to help attract other funders.
Some five months later, this money has not come through, and the hospice is still waiting for help.
At the moment the hospice building is empty and patients are being treated at premises in Whiteabbey, which are being rented from the health service.
The hospice needs a total of £11m for a major refurbishment and hopes were high that this target could be met.
Sadly, however, that mood of optimism has been replaced by one of uncertainty all round. This is bound to cause worry among those who need the service of the hospice.
These people and their families already face stressful situations, and anything that can be done to alleviate this is to be welcomed.
The last thing needed is uncertainty about the funding of a refurbished hospice which itself plays such a major role in helping to reduce the stress on the health service.
No doubt Mr Poots has much on his mind as health minister, and there are enormous demands on his funding. However, he gave his word to help the hospice, and he is still honour-bound to do so.
His decision was a good one; now he needs to deliver. The £2m is a paltry amount in the overall health budget, but it is a significant sum for those people who have been campaigning hard for a much better hospice, and for those who will benefit from its greater facilities.
It may well be the case that the much-needed funds are already in the pipeline, or perhaps they have been blocked by the red tape of a bureaucratic process. However, there is no time for delay.
Mr Poots should ensure that the money is sent immediately and that this unfortunate impasse will end. A promise is a promise.