Plans to build a new mental health inpatient facility in Omagh have been frozen due to a lack of funding amid Northern Ireland’s political deadlock, the News Letter can reveal.
The former health minister Simon Hamilton first approved plans in March 2016, describing the proposed new facility as an “important and much-needed second mental health facility in the Western Trust area”.
However, the Western Trust has confirmed that, due to a lack of funding, it is “unable to progress” with the project.
Stormont’s health department has warned that its budget is under pressure and that it will need considerably more money in future years just to maintain services at current levels.
The original plan was to develop the new facility, claimed to be worth around £30 million, as phase two of the new Omagh hospital that first opened to patients in July.
Andrew McKane, chairman of the Omagh branch of the trade union Unison, said that “everything is in place” for the new facility’s construction but that the lack of a health minister is holding things back.
“Approximately £30 million was to be set aside for phase two of the new Omagh hospital,” he said. “The infrastructure is in place, the grounds are in place, everything is ready to go. It is the same argument as they used with the 1% pay rise. They say there isn’t a minister to move money on. This is where we are and it’s a very worrying development.”
SDLP MLA Daniel McCrossan said: “The full development of the Omagh hospital site is what was promised to the people here. It is a sad day for Omagh that these plans are now shelved.
“This area has a huge mental health deficit in terms of providing adequate care and facilities. It’s my fear, given the high rate of suicides in the trust area, that more and more people will not be seen in a timely fashion.”
A spokesperson for the Western Trust said: “In terms of the phase two mental health crisis unit, the business case is currently with the Department of Health (DoH) and has not yet been approved nor funding for the same ring fenced.
“The trust is therefore unable to progress with this scheme and does not have the resources to retain team members on this project until it receives business case approval and funding.”