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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Weir (Local Democracy Reporter)

Trust approves business case for £1m Mid Ulster Eye Centre

The Northern Health and Social Care Trust has approved a business case of almost £1m for the Mid Ulster Eye Centre.

The case was approved at a cost of £965k at a meeting last week.

Trust board members heard that the “preferred option” was an upgrade of facilities to provide an eye centre. The initiative is part of a regional programme.

In 2018, the Department of Health announced new prototype elective care centres to undertake routine day surgery for cataracts. The Mid-Ulster Hospital in Magherafelt was one of three locations earmarked to serve patients from across Northern Ireland for this surgery. The other centres are at South Tyrone Hospital and Down Hospital, Downpatrick.

Also approved at last week’s meeting was the purchase of a replacement main CT scanner for Causeway Hospital in Coleraine at a cost of £804k and a mobile CT scanner costing £830k to be based at Causeway Hospital.

Members were advised that these will provide a “much more robust service going forward”.

However, the £281k cost of an oil to gas heating conversion at a Trust premises beside the ambulance station in Cookstown was queried by board member Gerard McGivern.

Mr McGivern said: “It seems strange to be changing from oil to gas at the present time. Is this the right time to be sticking in a gas boiler.”

He was told by Finance Director Owen Harkin that the view is that this is the “right thing to do at this point in time”.

He noted the environmental aspect of moving towards carbon zero.

He also commented that the ambulance station is “on a separate heating system”.

Mr Harkin has also acknowledged “pressure on energy costs” which he said is being monitored “very closely”.

Separately, at the meeting, Chair Bob McCann read from a letter being forwarded to UK Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi from the NHS Confederation on behalf of health leaders in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to raise their concern about the impact of rising energy costs on people’s health and the knock-on effect this will have on NHS services.

The letter says:

“With energy prices set to rise, they fear that many people will face the awful choice of skipping meals to heat their homes or having to put up with living in cold, damp, conditions.

“From a health perspective, this will inevitably lead to more illness up and down the country. It will lead to worse health outcomes, including damaging children’s life chances, as well as exacerbating health inequalities that have already been widened as a result of the pandemic.

“If people cannot afford to heat their homes sufficiently and if they cannot afford nutritious food, then their health will quickly deteriorate.

“As health leaders, we are clear that unless urgent action is taken by government, this will leave an indelible scar on local communities and cause a public health emergency.

“Their primary motivation in writing to you is to help prevent a public health emergency, but we also know that rising rates of poverty will lead to increased hospital admission and as well as a huge increase in demand on other parts of the NHS, including primary and community care, mental health services and social care.”


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