During my recent visit to Omagh to view plans for the new enhanced local hospital, I reaffirmed my commitment to providing the local population with high quality, modern healthcare facilities fit for the 21st Century.

I am sure that many people in Omagh and the surrounding areas will be hugely impressed by the designs and plans for the £190 million hospital complex which comprises an enhanced local hospital, an acute inpatient mental health facility and a new health and care centre.

The new hospital will, in conjunction with primary care, meet between 70% and 80% of all the local community’s health and social care needs.  It will have a 24/7 Urgent Care and Treatment Centre, an outpatient department, around 66 inpatient beds and 15 day case beds.  In fact, the Western Health and Social Care Trust expects to carry out significant  numbers of daycase procedures at the new hospital, not just for the people of Omagh but for those living throughout the west, including Londonderry.

That is not all.  The hospital will have a diagnostic department, so that people who require clinical investigations such as cardiac tests, x rays and scans can have these conducted close to home.  Also, those who require a hospital stay for palliative care or rehabilitation will be accommodated as inpatients, providing high quality, accessible services to the local community.

Renal dialysis will continue to be provided in Omagh and the new hospital will be the only local hospital in Northern Ireland to carry out dialysis.  I know this has been widely welcomed because this excellent service is so valuable and important to the local community.

Plans for the new hospital complex site include a major mental health inpatient unit serving the population of Tyrone and Fermanagh.  In addition, a new health and care centre will be built and is expected to  provide a wide  range of primary and community  care services for the local community.

I realise that people will have concerns about where their other hospital needs will be met, particularly their need for acute and emergency care.  It is my priority that the most ill patients receive the best possible care.  Thankfully, the ability of modern medicine to treat serious illness is improving all the time, but often people need specialist care that can only be provided in a larger hospital with the necessary range of support services such as intensive care. People living in the Omagh area will continue to be well served by the acute facilities at the Erne and Altnagelvin hospitals and in due course will benefit from the development of a new acute hospital to the north of Enniskillen.

The development of the enhanced local hospital is not just about investing in the health of the people in Omagh.  At a cost of around £190 million, the new hospital, along with the new mental health unit, is probably the largest investment ever in the area.  It will support hundreds of jobs, not just in the health service but also in the construction industry.  As the credit crunch continues to bite and with a recession looming, this is a massive boost for the local economy.

In order to ensure on-going effective communication between the Western Trust and Omagh District Council in relation to the development of the new hospital, I have proposed the establishment of a Liaison Group the first meeting of which will take place shortly.  I am greatly encouraged by the positive response of the Council and their willingness to participate in this group.

The new hospital will bring together a range of health and social care services on one site ensuring that the local population has ready access to a large range of high quality, modern services delivered in state-of-the-art facilities.  This is an exciting development which will be a huge asset to the town and which will provide world-class health services that will meet the needs of the local community for many years to come.

Minister for Health, Social Services and Public Safety

Michael McGimpsey

RNID Northern Ireland is calling on fundraisers from Strabane to get on their bikes for a London to Paris cycle challenge and raise vital funds for RNID’s research and services for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

The charity, which represents the 219,000 people in Northern Ireland who are deaf or hard of hearing, would like to hear from cyclists who are up for pedalling the 300km between the two cities on 26 – 29 June 2009.

Places in RNID’s team are available to prospective fundraisers on a first come, first served basis by paying a registration fee of £150 and raising a minimum of £1000. People who sign up before 31 January 2009 will receive a 15% discount on their registration fee.

Caroline Jupe, RNID Events & Community Fundraising Manager, says: “If you’ve looking to lose the excess pounds you’ve accumulated over the festive period, get your fitness in gear in the New Year by signing up for RNID’s London to Paris cycle challenge!”

For more information about the event, contact Caroline Jupe, on telephone / textphone: 0845 634 0687 (local rate), email: events@rnid.org.uk or visit visit www.rnid.org.uk/pariscycle

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