04/12/2002

Minister moves to reassure Hospice staff

The Minister with responsibility for Health, Social Services and Public Safety, Des Browne has responded to an open letter from some staff at the Northern Ireland Hospice.

Replying to the letter expressing support for an independent review of affairs at the Hospice, Mr Browne, said: "I appreciate the commitment and dedication of staff caring for patients at the Northern Ireland Hospice and the Children’s Hospice and I recognise that the last couple of years have been very difficult time for all concerned."

The Minister said he was "anxious to ensure that everything possible is done to help staff continue to perform their valuable work and to ensure that those who depend on the Hospice’s services are not adversely affected by the problems which have arisen."

In response to a request made by staff in the open letter, that the Department should appoint an interim Council of Management and an independent manager at the Hospice, the Minister said that the Department did not have the necessary legal powers to carry out the steps requested.

However, Mr Browne said: "The Department has asked the Eastern and Northern Health and Social Services Boards to ensure that patient care is not compromised by the problems at the Hospice."

The Minister said that he was confident that the independent review of affairs at the Hospice would be impartial in its membership and conduct of the review.

"I have high expectations that the independent review will help to establish the facts about affairs at the Hospice. I trust this will help to restore staff morale and public confidence in a voluntary organisation that has contributed so much to the care of the terminally ill and meant so much to many people over many years," concluded the Minister.

Following an invitation from the Council of Management at the Northern Ireland Hospice, the Minister announced on 28 November that the Department would initiate an independent review of affairs at the Hospice.

The Department is currently drawing up terms of reference and the membership of a review panel.

It is expected that the review will commence shortly and will be completed within as short a timescale as possible.

(SP)

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