Work to build a new all-encompassing health village in Banbridge will begin this summer - and, despite earlier funding difficulties, it will be paid for entirely from the Health Department’s budget.
Plans for the Health and Care Centre were first drawn up in 2005, but it has taken the seven years since that to finalise funding arrangements.
The Health Minister Edwin Poots last week travelled to the site on the Old Hospital Road on which the village will be built and expressed his delight that the project will go ahead.
The news that all £15m will come from within the department’s budget will come as a relief to Banbridge Council who met with the Minister towards the end of last year to express their regret when it was revealed only £8m of public funding was available.
The previous Health Minister Michael McGimpsey announced all the funding needed had been ring-fenced, but just months later the new Minister Edwin Poots said almost half the money would have to come from private finance.
Speaking to the Leader just after announcing that all £15m will be made available, Mr Poots said the possibility of private investment and a longer deadline for the project’s completion was “not satisfactory”.
“We are very keen to proceed with this project and have been for some time,” said the Minister. “I am certain this facility will provide a better quality of care in the community sector.”
While enabling works, costing £1.1m, are due to begin next month, construction of the village is scheduled to start this summer. The Minister said it will be completed within the next two years.
With 220 staff working there when it opens, the village will provide a range of community services including a full range of Allied Health Professional (AHP) services, a rehabilitation suite, two dental surgeries, children and young people’s services, mental health services, specialist nursing and health promotion.
The Minister said the project will bring community healthcare up-to-date.
“These much-needed facilities will replace outdated accommodation and will dramatically improve the provision and delivery of health care and social services in the district,” he said.
“The Health Care and Day Care Centres will complement existing primary care services already provided at the site in the Banbridge Group Surgery and Banbridge Polyclinic, bringing together a range of services in a modern, accessible ‘one-stop shop’ environment.”