Cash-strapped Northern Ireland health bosses spend £560k on empty hospital
An empty hospital in Co Tyrone has cost over half a million pounds to maintain since its closure, it has emerged.
The Tyrone County Hospital was shut in June 2017 after services were transferred to the new Omagh Hospital.
Around £560,000 has been spent since then on security and maintenance at the old site - around £21,578 a month - the Ulster Herald reported.
This includes £410,000 for round-the-clock security, £100,000 for a temporary security fence and £47,500 on maintenance and amenity bills.
The Western Health Trust confirmed the 20-acre property would be put up for sale on the open market.
SDLP MLA Daniel McCrossan called the mounting costs "absolutely shocking".
"The Western Health Trust needs to change how it sells property no longer used," he said.
"It should simply not be paying for security on a property vacated 18 months ago. The trust should have had a buyer at the moment they moved out.
"It is deplorable that while the trust is spending this money on security, people in the local Omagh area cannot even get a care package in place.
"Although I fully support the new Omagh Hospital and the health trust's ambition, this kind of wastage in our health service cannot be allowed to go unchallenged.
"I will be urgently raising this issue with the chief executive of the trust and with the permanent secretary of the Department of Health."
GP and Omagh councillor Josephine Deehan said she was "surprised and disappointed" by the expense. "I'm also concerned that the valuable equipment in the hospital has not been disposed of as yet," she added.
"There needs to be an awareness around public money and how it can be used in the most efficient and effective manner.
"I don't deny or dispute the property must be secured.
"It's very valuable and there are some parts that are quite new, like the postgraduate centre."
She stressed more efforts should have been made to dispose of the property when it became obvious services would be transferred to Omagh Hospital.
Ms Deehan said: "Now we're in this position, I'd urge the Western Health Trust to deal with this matter as expeditiously as possible to try to minimise any further expense."
The Western Health Trust said it hoped to sell the property, consisting of the main building and 25 smaller buildings, within a year.
It explained that while interest had been shown early on by public sector organisations, this had been withdrawn.
The trust added the progress to date was consistent with the disposal of other large public sector buildings.