Derry City Councillors are to challenge a “strong case” made by their Omagh counterparts for the west’s new detox centre to be located in their area.
The matter was raised by SDLP Councillor Martin Reilly during the September meeting of Derry City Council’s Regional Services Committee this week.
His party colleague Brian Tierney proposed that Derry City Council now write to the Health Minister and the Health and Social Care Board stating their case for the centre to be located in Derry.
The council has already passed motions backing calls for a Detox Centre in the city in support of a massive campaign spear-headed by relatives of those who have died by suicide after suffering from addiction problems.
Collette Quigley, whose teenager son Andrew died in January this year, was among those who had called on the council to back the campaign during the summer,
It emerged during the meeting this week that Western trust Chief Executive Elaine Way wrote twice to the council over the summer after being contacted about the need for “an improved alcohol and substance detoxification service”.
In the first letter from mid-June, Ms Way said that the Trust was awaiting the outcome of a government led review of all addiction services across Northern Ireland.
In a second letter issued last month, she elaborated that Health Minister Edwin Poots said that there will be three detox facilities across the north, one of which will be located in the west.
She added that the Trust was awaiting the outcome of the location announcement, but added that at present the Trust currently do provide detox facilities in both the acute hospitals and in the community “where we have detox nurses working five days a week in partnership with GP surgeries”.
She added that interventions were also conducted through community addiction teams in Derry and work is ongoing to improve care pathways across all providers.
Ms Way said that residential addiction services were currently available in the Omagh area, provided on a five-day a week basis, and similar services provided by Northlands in Derry.
“As an interim arrangement the Trust has been asked to cost the service on a 24-7 basis in Omagh to enhance the current five day model,” she wrote.
Mr Reilly said at the meeting this week that there was “a need to have that facility in our district, given we are the city and there will be the demand for it in a city location”.
Ms Way, who was at the meeting in person to give an update on other matters, responded:
“When I met with Omagh District Council they made a very strong case as to why it should be located there”, she said, adding that Omagh Council had pointed to the Tyrone Hospital’s track record as the main detox facility in the west at present.
“I think this is an issue that will ultimately be decided by the Health and Social Care Board but I have reflected to them quite clearly the strength of feeling in this city, particularly with the number of tragedies,” Ms Way said.
She said that the board were likely to look at the matter in terms of the distance people could travel.
Sinn Fein Councillor Paul Fleming suggested that the Whiteoaks facility just over the border “should be given serious consideration”.
SDLP Councillor Brian Tierney described the revelation that Omagh had made strong representations as “quite worrying” and suggested the council in Derry should write to both Health Minister Edwin Poots and the HSCB on the matter.