Officials have been warned that they risk the wrath of a city if they do not deliver the proposed Medical School for Derry.
Talks were convened by Mayor Michaela Boyle yesterday with political, business and academic leaders emerging to announce they will seek an urgent meeting with top civil servants in relation to the project and the university expansion in Derry.
At the meeting serious concern was expressed at the lack of response from the Department for Health (DoH) regarding the business case for the graduate entry level school.
The renewed impetus comes as Ulster University told the ‘Journal’ it remains ‘steadfast’ in its commitment to establishing the Medical School in the North West ‘to address the challenges of a healthcare system at breaking point.’ However, the DoH claimed there were outstanding issues and that it wanted more information on the benefits of increased clinical placements in the North West.
The new school, which would help address a major shortage in skilled doctors here, was scheduled to open in September, 2019 but this has been pushed back.
Mayor Boyle said last night the ‘feelings of frustration and concern that we are still awaiting approval of funding,’ were palpable at the meeting. Announcing plans to contact the Head of the Civil Service, David Sterling and set up meetings with Permanent Secretaries, Mayor Boyle said: “The urgency of the situation is increasing as we fast approach the final deadline for student intake ahead of the planned autumn 2020 start.”
SDLP Colr. Sinead McLaughlin, raising the matter at an earlier council meeting this week, said: “Time is running out for us to get approval from the DoH. We have four weeks left for approval so we can get it to UCAS.”
Sinn Fein Colr. Sandra Duffy said everyone was ‘on the same page in terms of the importance of the Medical School.’
People Before Profit Colr. Eamonn McCann said that the development of the university was ‘a matter of huge importance and great urgency.’
“I remember debates on this at Queen’s half a century ago and more. Since then there have been a number of false dawns.”
Colr. McCann said, however, that despite a greater focus on the Medical School, ‘we haven’t seen anything done, not a brick has been laid upon a brick.’
He warned that if there was no progress nor clear unequivocal measures taken very soon, people may have to, once again, take to the streets. “I think the people of Derry will be entitled to say Derry is being done down and we are not going to stand for it. We are entitled to this and if we don’t get it we will have to decide on what strategy to bring the anger of the people of Derry to bear. We have had enough of people talking out of both sides of their mouth. Enough’s enough - do it or we take action.”