Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill has confirmed that the Executive Office will now take the lead on progressing the Graduate Entry Medical School at Ulster University Magee Campus, which is a key priority for Ministers, Derry and the North West.
It's hoped a decision will now be fast-tracked to ensure that medical students can enrol at Magee next year.
Ulster University recently said a decision has to be made by the end of May.
The Department of Health had been readying a business case for medical provision in Northern Ireland which was due to be handed over to Minister Robin Swann.
The overall aim of the Executive Office, previously the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) is to contribute to and oversee the co-ordination of Executive policies and programmes to deliver a peaceful, fair, equal and prosperous society.
Confirmation that the planned medical school at Magee is to be taken forward by the Executive Office has been welcomed by local Sinn Féin MLA Karen Mullan.
Karen Mullan commented: “The medical school at Magee has long been recognised as a pivotal project, not just in terms of the expansion of Magee University but the overall economic regeneration of Derry, Strabane and the wider North West.
“But it has faced a number of delays and difficulties.
”In this context I welcome the decision of the Executive today that this project will now be taken forward by the joint heads of government. The medical school is a complex and cross-departmental scheme and by moving it to the Executive Office, the difficulties can be addressed in time for the first intake of postgraduate students next year.
“This is a welcome move which comes on the back of the extremely positive Executive intervention committing record levels of investment to this region. The agreement to match fund the City Deal and Future Fund means that we now have a £210 million package that will be pivotal to our economic and social regeneration.
“Achieving this at a time of global crisis when all governments are facing huge challenges, is an important recognition that investment must address regional imbalance and the legacy of past neglect.
“That is something which Sinn Féin Finance Minister Conor Murphy has been abundantly clear on and I thank him for the commitment he has shown to redressing regional inequality.
“Progress on the medical school is critical to opening up a new chapter for third-level education in Derry which will see the much-needed NHS heroes of the future being trained and retained in this city. I look forward to that vision being realised.”
SDLP MLA Sinead McLaughlin added: "I welcome progress on the Medical School. I hope that the transfer of responsibility to the Executive Office is a sign that, at last, we are about to get the Medical School approved, over the line and ready to accept students in September next year.
"There really is no excuse for this having taken so long - it should have opened years ago. So let's get the final push done and completed."
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