Health Village faces finance changes

A CRUNCH meeting held yesterday (Monday) between the Health Minister and a local MLA confirmed that only eight of the £15 million needed to complete the long-awaited Banbridge Health Village is available from the public purse.

Local councillors met with Edwin Poots last week to find out that while a promise had been made by the previous health minister that money for the project had been ring-fenced and building could begin, just over half the money was readily available.

It is understood the minister will now seek the other £7m from private finance, a partnership project which has been criticised in the past for taking longer to complete and possible even becoming more expensive in the long run.

The village would employ around 200 staff and feature a full range of Allied Health Professional (AHP) services, including two dental surgeries and pharmacy services in addition to a dedicated wing housing 46 learning disability places and 20 physical disability places.

Speaking on Friday a spokeswoman from the Department of Health said it is likely private finance will be necessary to build the village and to keep to a 2016 deadline for completion.

“It is anticipated that the business case for the Banbridge facility will be approved this month,” she said. “However, the Minister wishes to deliver this facility more quickly and will be reviewing his priorities within the capital programme to look at ways in which he can achieve this. He will also be looking at other options such as private finance for this and other currently unfunded schemes.”

UUP MLA Samuel Gardiner met with the DUP minister on Monday to discuss the future of the Community Treatment and Care Centre - a 4,703 square metre project on the former Banbridge Hospital site.

He said “restraints on public finances” mean not all the money initially promised is available from the current budget. But the Assembly member remained adamant that strong interest from the construction sector would see the project through as a Private Finance Initiative (PFI), beginning next year or 2013.