Hospice's delight after Stormont comes up with £2.7m for rebuilding plan
The Northern Ireland Hospice said it is delighted after receiving a £2.7million cash boost from Health Minister Edwin Poots to upgrade its delapidated Somerton House facility.
The building closed its doors to patients and staff eight months ago after it no longer met clinical standards.
Mr Poots told staff and patients yesterday that it would receive the much-needed funding to help with the construction of a new build at the site on the Somerton Road in north Belfast.
NI Hospice chief executive Judith Hill said: "We are absolutely delighted, it is a very significant milestone for us which will really help us to get under way".
The hospice was forced to transfer patients to temporary premises at Whiteabbey Hospital last November.
The planned rebuild came to an estimated cost of £11m, with £3m coming from public fundraising and the significant £2.7m coming from the Health Department.
The pledge to give the money was first made in November 2012.
But at the time, because of budgetary constraints, no funding for the sector was available.
A Department of Health spokesman said: "The Health Minister has always expressed his desire to be in a position to help the Northern Ireland Hospice in its appeal to refurbish Somerton House.
"He has liaised closely with the Finance Minister to consider how the Executive could support the hospice in its work, which is aligned with the direction of travel set out in Transforming Your Care."
The hospice will continue its extensive fundraising efforts.
To date donations and pledges of support have totalled £6.5m.
Combined with yesterday's announcement, it brings the total to just over £9m, leaving £2m to be secured through voluntary donations and gifts over the next two years.
Ms Hill said: "We made our decision to move forward and we were making other applications, which all took time to come through."
The new building will have modern facilities providing 18 beds in single en-suite rooms with added facilities for staff, families and volunteers.
It will also include a new day hospice facility and an education and resource centre
Finance Minister Sammy Wilson accompanied Mr Poots at the announcement and acknowledged the importance of the Executive's investment.
He said: "The services it provides are vital to those families and friends who avail of them."
Mr Poots took time at the announcement to speak to carers and patients.
He said: "I am delighted to provide capital funding of £2.7m to enable NI Hospice to proceed with the replacement of this much-needed facility.
"I would also like to commend the NI Hospice on its continuing fundraising activities through their innovative 'buy a brick' campaign."
The construction of the new building is expected to take up to 18 months to complete.
Ms Hill added: "We are really delighted that we are under way."