Stormont must give hospice a funding lifeline
The Northern Ireland Hospice serves people from all backgrounds, and it is a disgrace that Stormont has not yet given it the financial assistance it requires.
Because of the dilapidated state of the premises on the Somerton Road, the hospice has been forced to move patients and equipment into temporary accommodation at Whiteabbey Hospital.
The long-term plan to redevelop the Somerton Road site will cost some £11m, and the hospice has started a fundraising appeal.
Although this appeal will no doubt receive warm support, the £11m target is still a massive sum.
Some important funders are looking for a lead from Stormont which would spur them to contribute significantly, and some have already expressed surprise that the Government here has been backward at coming forward to help.
The Stormont Executive was made aware of the situation a year ago, but so far it has done nothing. The hospice is looking for public funding of £2.5m, which is not a large amount by Government standards.
However, this amount could make all the difference to an institution which is struggling to improve its premises to meet the increasing demands from people and their families in all sections of our community.
The cause is just, and although the hospice does not have the money it requires, it has powerful allies. They include the local MP Nigel Dodds, who knows about the excellent work of the hospice, and who is in an ideal position to seek the direct support of his senior colleagues, including the Health Minister Edwin Poots.
Naturally, there is pressure for funding on all government departments, including health, but there is no reason why money should not be found for such a deserving institution as the hospice, which saves the NHS huge amounts every year.
With a little commonsense and visible goodwill all round, the Government must do the right thing and come to the aid of the hospice.
It deserves nothing less.