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Belfast hospital changes mooted

Plans for the much-awaited new maternity unit at Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital may be altered meaning it could open five years earlier than scheduled, the Northern Ireland Health Minister has said.

Rather than continuing with the proposals to build a standalone women’s facility, Michael McGimpsey is looking at whether the unit could be opened in the top three floors of the critical care building that is currently under construction at the RVH.

An estimated £100 million could be saved by the new proposals.

The latest scheduled opening date for the women’s hospital was 2017/18. It had been delayed because of budget constraints.

One of the options being mulled over by the Belfast Trust in a review of the usage of the critical care building is for a state-of-the art maternity unit to be opened at the RVH in 2012/13.

“Given the current challenging economic climate facing the Health and Social Care service in Northern Ireland, it is vital that any funds are invested in areas of greatest need,” Mr McGimpsey said.

“The new critical care building is a much-needed development and I want to assure the public that work will continue to complete it.

“However, I also want to ensure that we maximise the potential of this new facility. That is why I have asked for an urgent review which will focus on the best use of the top three floors of the building.”

Existing plans for the upper floors of the critical care building include space for an education centre and a burns unit.

The review will consider whether these remain the highest priorities and whether the floors could be used for something else.

If that is the outcome, consideration will be given to alternative solutions for the provision of the education centre and burns unit.