28/11/2002

Minister agrees to set up Hospice review panel

The Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, Des Browne, has announced that there will be a review into the operation of the Northern Ireland Hospice.

While not commenting directly on the on the situation at the Northern Ireland Hospice, Mr Browne said that the problems which have developed at the Hospice had been watched with "growing concern".

He said: "We did not want to intervene in matters which were essentially employment matters of an independent organisation. However, we have now been invited to become involved by the council of management and there is clear public interest and concern over the affairs of the Hospice."

In a statement earlier this week the Hospice Council said that Chief Executive Tom Hill was to step aside to allow an independent review of the operation of the charity and its council's activities. The management council of the Hospice requested the Department of Health to urgently begin a full review to "conclusively establish all the facts surrounding the operation of the hospice within the past two-and-a-half year period."

However, at the subsequent AGM held on Wednesday evening where two new council members were appointed, around half of the staff walked out amid angry exchanges and calls for the meeting to be postponed until the inquiry was completed.

Today, Mr Browne said that while a review was in order as the Department had an interest through funding from the public purse given to the Hospice each year, it would be inappropriate for the department itself to conduct such a review. He said an appropriate group of people would be appointed to carry out the review and that the department's role would be limited to putting together an expert team to draw up a framework for the review to be completed within as short a timescale as possible.

The Minister added: “I have great admiration for the work of the hospice movement and my objective will be to ensure that we do all we can to find ways of helping the staff to continue to perform their valuable work.”

(SP)

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