SDLP MLA Mark H Durkan has welcomed progress on securing overnight accommodation for parents of sick children travelling for specialist medical treatment in Northern Ireland.
After meeting with Ronald McDonald House Charity (RMDHC) UK CEO, Ella Joseph, Mr Durkan’s proposals for a home in the North has received support from the Department of Health.
The Strategic Planning and Performance Group (SPPG) and Belfast Health and Social Care Trust (BHSCT) have agreed to engage with the charity around the development of provision near the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children.
Mr Durkan has also secured a review into the expansion of the Hospital Travel Costs Scheme to include parents of sick or seriously ill children.
The Foyle MLA said:
“I’m pleased that my proposal for a Ronald McDonald House Charity home has received support and been met with enthusiasm from the charity itself, who are keen to provide much needed support for families with sick children in Northern Ireland.
“The facility would provide overnight accommodation for children and families attending hospital for appointments and specialist treatment. I’ve heard personal testimony from many parents of sick children about the huge additional challenges they face in terms of travelling for healthcare. For any parent, the prospect of their child being unwell or requiring a hospital stay is worrying in itself, yet many parents of children with long-term health conditions are under additional pressures. The hidden costs associated with travelling for appointments or overnight stays are pushing these families into financial distress and in many cases debt.
“It’s not good enough that families going through the most difficult time in their lives are not being properly supported. It is the duty of policymakers to alleviate some of that pressure where possible. I’m hopeful that RMDHC, SPPG and the BHSCT can work together in the absence of an executive to secure a Ronald McDonald House for the North. Arrangements will explore the possibility of regenerating disused wards or other Trust-owned buildings to provide necessary accommodation for these families. This initiative is well-established and one which has flourished elsewhere in the UK, acting as a lifeline to over 60,000 families. These homes have provided refuge and respite to so many parents and carers - essentially giving families one less thing to worry about at an otherwise harrowing time.
“The department has also recommitted to a review of the Hospital Travel Costs Scheme to include parents of sick children as well as further amendments to support people on low incomes with the costs of healthcare. Unfortunately, that hard-won review has been hindered by the absence of Stormont. I’ll continue to do my bit to ensure families of sick children are adequately supported and able to focus on the wellbeing of their child rather than worrying about how they will afford the associated costs.”