West Tyrone Sinn Féin -- Building an Ireland of Equals

Fitzgerald challenges Minister on Omagh mental health proposals

Published: 14 February, 2012

Councillor Anne Marie Fitzgerald has lambasted Health Minister Edwin Poots after he revealed, in answer to an Assembly question from Pat Doherty MP that the provision of inpatient acute mental health care and addiction services proposed for the new Omagh hospital are currently under review by the Health and Social Care Board.

"This latest revelation by Minister Poots is another blow to health provision in the local area. Any erosion of mental health provision for the new enhanced hospital is completely unacceptable and the welcome announcement of £26m to accelerate the Omagh hospital project will be of little comfort to people with acute psychiatric illnesses, their families and carers.

Cllr Fitzgerald continued 'Even before the hospital has got off the ground, the Minister appears to be intent on stripping services, and in the process attack the most vulnerable people in our society.

'Given the fact that this information had to be elicited from the Minister via an Assembly question, I am wondering had he ever any intention of informing the people of Omagh of his decision.

'The Minister's response contradicts assurances we received only one month ago from the Western Trust that a mental health in-bed facility would be based at the new Omagh hospital.

"The shortfalls in the current mental health provision are well known, where there simply aren't enough beds to cope with demand. As such, I am puzzled as to why the Minister now requires a business case, despite the fact that a business case was presented to and signed off by John Compton, Chief Executive of the Regional Health and Social Services Board, in his review of services last year.

'As a council, we have sought an urgent meeting with the Minister and the Trust to discuss this issue. However, in light of this new information it is now questionable if there is any merit in meeting the Trust, given the empty assurances we received last month about mental health provision.

'This latest revelation raises further questions about what services will be next for axing from the Minister's list'.