Adj Debate Ennis General

March 11th, 2008 - Pat Breen

^ Adjournment Debate. ^

^^ Health Services. ^^

Dail Eireann – Tuesday 11th March, 2008

Acting Chairman: Deputies Pat Breen and Timmy Dooley have a total of five minutes in which to make their case.

Deputy Pat Breen: Will the Chair allow a little more time because of the major mix-up last Thursday when I was supposed to have five minutes and the Minister came in with the wrong reply? That is the reason I am here again this evening.

Acting Chairman: I assume we are starting from scratch.

Deputy Pat Breen: I raised this issue on Thursday last on the Adjournment and I am pleased the matter is recorded in the Official Report.

Acting Chairman: Will the Deputy please stop for a minute? Is the Minister of State, Deputy Haughey, responding?

Deputy Seán Haughey: Yes.

Acting Chairman: The Deputy may proceed.

Deputy Pat Breen: I raised this matter last Thursday and it is recorded in the Official Report. I see my colleague, Deputy Dooley, is here to support me. I am delighted the Deputy has seen the light in regard to what is happening in the health services in Clare and is here to assist me. I hope he will not act the Opposition politician but will take political responsibility for this very important issue.

Health issues have been dominating the political agenda for the past few months throughout the county. There is a huge crisis out there. There is a crisis especially in our constituency of Clare. For years, the future of Ennis General Hospital has been called into question. I raised the issue on Thursday last, and particularly the concerns as to whether the €39 million redevelopment would go ahead. The crisis continues this week.

We already know that ambulance crews have been instructed to bypass the hospital for major trauma cases from 1 April. The elderly care unit at Ennis General Hospital has been closed on various occasions in recent weeks. There is a possibility that the unit will close again in the very near future because of cuts by the Health Service Executive. I have also heard that the hours for accident and emergency services are to be curtailed at the hospital. The situation is getting very serious for the people of Clare.

While 27 nurse vacancies have been advertised at Ennis General Hospital, unfortunately, approval has been granted only for six positions. As a result, I understand rosters will have to be changed to address this shortfall, which will affect the accident and emergency services. A CAT scanner, an outdated model, which has been promised for the hospital has not materialised. Ministers, the Taoiseach, our Oireachtas Members in Clare, including Deputy Dooley, are masters at turning up at photo shoots and sod-turning ceremonies. We had the former Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Martin, the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance, Deputy Cowen, the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney, and the Taoiseach in Clare before the election telling us the €39 million extension was going ahead. Only last week, the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, Deputy Máire Hoctor, visited the constituency. Prior to the election, former Ministers of State at the Department, Senator Ivor Callely and Deputy Seán Power visited to announce the dementia unit. This is what is happening. We have plenty of photo opportunities and sod-turning ceremonies but nothing is happening in regard to the health services in Clare.

At the opening of the Cahercalla extension last week, the Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Killeen, said there would be good news for the health services in Clare. I am sick and tired of Hanly reports and Teamwork reports. It is time for the Government to come clean on this issue and tell the people of Clare that the €39 million extension, redevelopment plan for the hospital is going ahead. That is the reason I am delighted Deputy Dooley is present to assist me in this matter.

Deputy Pat Breen: Deputy Dooley is in Government.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: I will not accept the HSE coming forward and responding to pleas on live radio in respect of particular issues in this city. As far as I am concerned, it is this House that makes decisions.

Deputy Pat Breen: And the Government of which the Deputy is a member.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: It is the decisions that are taken here that are important. That is what I expect the HSE to respond to, not to what happens on live radio. As an elected politician, I believe the HSE has a responsibility to take on board the views expressed in this House and the commitments given in this House.

Deputy Pat Breen: The Government does not give us any chance; it makes its announcements outside the House.

Minister of State at the Department of Education and Science (Deputy Seán Haughey): I am taking these Adjournment matters on behalf of my colleague, the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Mary Harney.

The provision of services at the Mid Western Regional Hospital, Ennis, and across the mid-west region in general is the responsibility of the Health Service Executive. Significant developments to enhance the services at the Mid Western Regional Hospital, Ennis, have taken place over the past few years.

The HSE advises that the staffing and budget of Ennis has increased significantly. The revenue for the hospital has increased from a budget of €14.2 million in 2001 to €23 million in 2007. Staffing at the hospital has risen from 250 in 2001 to 289 in 2007.

The additional staffing includes a consultant surgeon, consultant anaesthetists and an accident and emergency consultant with four sessions per week at the hospital. In addition, four emergency care physicians have been employed on a seven-day a week basis to provide medical cover to the accident and emergency department.

Additional nursing, non-nursing, and paramedical staff, have also been appointed. These include extra infection control nurses, a heart failure nurse, as well as general nursing staff, medical scientists, radiographers and physiotherapists. A cardiac rehabilitation department has also been set up. A co-ordinator, cardiac nurse, senior cardiac technician and basic cardiac technician have been employed to provide this service.

The Health Service Executive has indicated that further developments at Ennis include a major upgrading of electrical capacity and the radiology department which is currently under way at a cost of €750,000; the opening of a new admissions lounge following the relocation of the physiotherapy department at a cost of €200,000—–

Deputy Pat Breen: Where is phase 1 that was promised?

Deputy Seán Haughey: —–and the development of outreach physiotherapy, warfarin and surgical outpatient clinics have been developed for the west and east Clare areas. The Health Service Executive has advised that Horwath Consulting Ireland in association with Teamwork Management Services are undertaking, on behalf of the executive, a strategic review of acute hospital services in the mid-west.

Future priorities, including the development of services at Ennis, will be guided by this review. The executive advises that the review will be completed shortly.

On the issue of the Health Service Executive capital plan, I should add that in drawing up its capital plan, the executive is required to prioritise the projects to be progressed within its overall capital funding allocation. The executive has been finalising its capital plan over recent weeks on this basis. A revised draft of the plan has now been completed and has just been made available to the Department of Health and Children, for consideration and approval in the normal way.

The draft capital plan reflects the executive’s commitments and priorities. The executive is currently reviewing a number of options to enable it to progress further capital projects over the coming years and proposals in this regard are awaited by the Department of Health and Children. The capital plan will be published as a whole upon approval. It is not productive to release information about the status of individual projects in advance.

Deputy Pat Breen: They published it last year. There was no problem then telling us what was included in Phase 1.

Acting Chairman: Deputy Breen—–

Deputy Pat Breen: That is the most disgraceful answer I have ever received from a Minister of State in my whole life—–

Acting Chairman: I call Deputy Deirdre Clune.

Deputy Pat Breen: —–in respect of the future of services at Ennis General Hospital. It is quite obvious that the project is dead.

Acting Chairman: The Deputy can raise the matter another way. I call Deputy Deirdre Clune. I was extremely generous with the Deputy in respect of time.

Deputy Pat Breen: It is a total disgrace. If it was in the constituency of the Acting Chairman, it would be similar.

Acting Chairman: If Deputy Breen was sitting here, he would do as I do.

Deputy Pat Breen: I am angry and sad.