THERE are now serious fears that the €10m investment announced for Bantry General Hospital in December could be in jeopardy, following the overspend on the National Children’s Hospital.
A meeting of the Friends of Bantry General Hospital (BGH) on Tuesday night heard concerns regarding the new €5.4m endoscopy unit and a €5m rehabilitation unit which were announced amid much fanfare by Health Minister Simon Harris before Christmas.
Cork South West TD Jim Daly, who was in Bantry with Minister Harris when he made the announcement, told The Southern Star that the project did not require funding this year and insisted the plan was on track.
However, the fundraising group is now worried the projects will be either slashed or seriously delayed.
The group is responsible for raising more than €600,000 for additional equipment, and is now calling for further clarity, saying the investment is crucial to safeguard the future of BGH.
Chairman of the group, former county mayor and Independent Cllr Declan Hurley said: ‘Small hospitals such as Bantry would be regarded as low hanging fruit which could be easily pushed off an investment list. But we should not be made suffer for the €100m overspend and plan to make noise and go wherever we have to, to make sure this project is not shelved.’
The government has already announced a definite ‘rescheduling’ of €24m worth of spending on health facilities, as a result of the €400m overspend.
Exact details have not been disclosed of what will be cut or delayed, but a spokesperson for the Minister for Health said it would be restricted to smaller capital works. Other delays have been announced for roads projects.
Minister Daly says he is due to meet with the HSE and hospital management before the end of this month for a progress report in relation to design and planning of the BGH project.
‘During the course of this year the priority work will be to appoint a design team, apply for planning permission and then tender the works before appointing a building contractor,’ he told The Southern Star. ‘The time frames associated with these works will not require capital funding for the year 2019, the only requirement is funding for the design and planning of the projects. Therefore, there is no negative impact on the expansion plans for Bantry Hospital as a result of the children’s hospital budgetary position.’
Cllr Hurley said early indications from hospital management suggested the project hadn’t been cut but he said ‘it was ‘too early to say for sure it was out of danger.’
‘There was always a question mark over the viability of the hospital and when this investment was announced, it was a real vote of confidence, but a €24m cut is a significant amount to any budget and we won’t relax until things are written in stone.’
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