THE views of the Island’s clinical staff must be heard before the government pushes forward with changes to the Our Hospital project, the former Environment Minister has said.
John Young, who gave planning approval to build the £804 million facility at Overdale – a decision he made towards the end of his term in the previous government – spoke out after Infrastructure Minister Tom Binet revealed that the existing scheme was ‘no longer feasible’.
Deputy Binet said that his ongoing review into the project, which will examine alternative options, was now ‘essential’, as rises in inflation, borrowing rates and global economic instability meant that financing the building in its current form would not be possible.
Reacting to the news, Mr Young said: ‘I am absolutely looking for what the reaction of the clinical staff is. I would like to believe and hope that there has been consultation with them.
‘My expectation is that they would have views, because the application I approved was informed by clinical needs.’
He added: ‘Obviously they produced a scheme that I can see issues have been raised about, and I do understand that the cost is now difficult to cope with in the current economic climate.’
The government has said that Deputy Binet’s review – which will be presented to the States Assembly by 20 October – will not feature a new site-assessment process. It will examine existing areas within the government’s health estate, including Overdale, Gloucester Street and adjacent sites such as Kensington Place, as well as opportunities for a longer-term phased development at Overdale or Gloucester Street and the potential use of secondary sites to complement a primary hospital.
The former political leader of the Our Hospital project, Deputy Lyndon Farnham, has said that abandoning the approved plans ‘makes a mockery of our democratic process’.
Mr Young said: ‘My expectation at least, if we are to see a major change in direction, is that the information be presented to the States Assembly [in full].’
Commenting on the possibility of a dual-site facility, the former politician said: ‘All I know is that health service teams have always expressed the view that it was not a workable option,’ adding that factors such as clinical adjacency – involving the need for staff and patients to move between departments – were mentioned to him by health officials during his time in office.
‘It is really important that the views of the health service clinical teams are heard,’ Mr Young said.
‘You don’t build a hospital for now – you build it for the next 60 years.’
Deputy Binet said that clinical input would ‘not be neglected’, and added: ‘It would be an act of madness [to not consider clinical views] as hospital facilities are about delivering a health service.’