A business case for a new medical hub at a key site along Derry’s riverfront is nearing completion, the Derry News has learned.
The Western Trust has revealed that its final business case will be handed over to the Department of Health (DoH) for approval in February.
Last February, the Trust entered an “initial” twelve-month agreement with site owner the Department for Communities (DfC) to enable the Trust to further develop the proposal of locating a new Cityside Health and Care Centre at Fort George.
During that time no further marketing of Fort George took place.
The DfC has however said that once it receives the complete business case it will consider the best way to “maximise” the site’s potential.
A Western Trust spokesperson commented: “The Western Health and Social Care Trust can confirm that as part of the business case development process for the provision of a major city side health and care centre, it has been engaged in the identification of a site suitable for the purposes of bringing together GP and associated healthcare services in an integrated model.
“Fort George is likely to be the recommended site deemed suitable for future service provision within the city.
“The Trust and Department for Communities have entered into a joint Memorandum of Understanding allowing the Trust to progress the completion of the business case and to secure the necessary Departmental approvals.
“The business case is at an advanced stage in preparation and is anticipated to be submitted to the Department of Health for consideration within the next four weeks.”
The development of a Cityside hub is anticipated to bring up to 500 whole time equivalent permanent jobs, new and relocated, which will deliver mostly nursing, social work, allied health professional and administrative roles.
It would enable both Trust and GP Medical Practices to work together to further expand and enhance local health and social care services currently spread across the city.
If delivered, the hub is expected to support people in improving their health and well-being, particularly around the areas of physical activity, nutrition, smoking cessation, alcohol misuse and mental health.
Once established, it would optimise the potential of communities to become more active in improving their own health and well-being.
At a Derry City & Strabane District Council meeting in November 2019, a new project was put on the table for a £150m - £200m multi-purpose development at the Fort George site.
This would comprise of a “world-class” Maritime and Emigration Museum, 5-star hotel, public realm development, office space incorporating a technology and research & development hub, plus two residential blocks with car parking at the former army base.
Speaking at that meeting, well-known Derry businessman, Garvan O’Doherty said projects brought forward by the city lacked ambition and with central government support the museum could be the fourth major tourism pillar in Northern Ireland alongside Titanic Belfast, The Giants Causeway and the Wild Atlantic Way.
He felt the health hub could be located at a different site, adding, it is imperative to look after both the economy and people of the city.
A Department for Communities spokesperson explained that it is awaiting the Western Trust’s final business case before considering the best way forward for the site but could not put a timescale on that process.
He said: “The Department is awaiting receipt of the final Business Case from the Western Health and Social Care Trust but officials have been regularly engaging with the Trust and significant progress has been made.
“Once the final Business Case has been received, consideration will have to be given to the optimum way to develop Fort George. At this stage we do not have a timescale for when that decision will be made.”
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