Breen questions Health Minister on the Future of Ennis General Hospital.

March 13th, 2009 - Pat Breen

Statements and Question & Answers Session on Health Cutbacks – Dail Eireann – Tuesday, 10th March 2009.

  Deputy Pat Breen: Things are changing rapidly with the HSE.  The Minister of State, Deputy Mansergh, and Deputy Dooley appear to disagree on the “golden hour” even though they are in the same party.  The Minister of State is very concerned about the time it takes to get to Clonmel hospital from parts of Tipperary while Deputy Dooley said the “golden hour” makes no difference whatsoever.  That shows there are differences within the Fianna Fáil Party as to how the health service should proceed.


   Deputy James Reilly: Listen to the doctor.


   Deputy Pat Breen: Obviously, €480 million is a significant shortfall to have to make up.  We met the Minister for Health and Children recently and it is evident that things have changed rapidly in the meantime.  She indicated in regard to funding that she is ruling nothing in or out tomorrow morning and for the budget.  Does that mean the promises made at the meeting attended by the mayor of Clare and councillors have gone out the window and that there are changes to what the Minister outlined?  She indicated to me that there are no plans to close the hospital or acute hospitals but at the same time she said the situation regarding funding will be kept under review.  There is much uncertainty currently.  People are fearful about what will happen.

  The Minister indicated she would implement the Teamwork report.  Given the serious funding problem, what will happen to the required upgrading of the ambulance service and to the funding required to upgrade Limerick Regional Hospital?  Will the Minister put the Teamwork report on hold?  That issue is very important also.

  Deputy Dooley inquired whether Fine Gael Members would resign if we were in the same circumstances.  I remind him that not one cent has been spent on Ennis General Hospital in recent years.  We have received promises from Minister after Minister and we still do not know what will happen to the hospital.  Perhaps we can get some answers from the Minister for Health and Children in that regard. Deputy Pat Breen: Were any planned closures discussed in the HSE?


   Deputy Mary Harney: They may have been discussed in the HSE and some people may feel the configuration of hospitals is inappropriate.  There is no doubt about that.  I quoted the Minister for Health in 1975, the late former Deputy Brendan Corish, in this House referring to the FitzGerald report and saying it was urgent we got on with the implementation of the change, and we know how long ago that was.


   Deputy Pat Breen: Will the Minister rule against the HSE?


   Deputy Mary Harney: No, every facility on the acute hospital side must operate to the highest possible standard of patient care.  If we moved to a licensing system or to an insurance model where the insurers determined where things happen, many of our small hospitals would be closed overnight.  There is no doubt about that.

Deputy Jan O’Sullivan: Can the Minister clarify that so far the HSE has not proposed the closure of hospitals to the Minister and that if it does, she will be asked first?


   Deputy Pat Breen: That is what we want to hear.  Will the Minister reassure us?


   Deputy Mary Harney: The service plan and any adjustment of it must be approved by the Minister and laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas.  That is in the 2004 Act and will be complied with.  We are making radical changes in what happens in the hospitals with terrific clinical leadership, which has emerged for the first time.

  Deputy Ferris asked about an audit.  I do not know who is supposed to do the audit.  We have had health and safety reports and fire reports on some of the long-term facilities and people do not seem to be very happy to accept them.  Experts on safety from either a health and safety or fire point of view are often challenged in this House when recommendations are being implemented.

  Deputy Ferris asked a similar question on hospitals to Deputy Jan O’Sullivan.  There is no plan to close any hospital in the country.  Major reform is taking place in the north east, particularly regarding what happens between Monaghan and Cavan where there is a single hospital on two sites.  There is reconfiguration on what happens in each site.  The more acute services happen in Cavan and many of the day procedures happen in Monaghan.  That is well documented.  Deputy Ferris’s colleague recently attended a meeting with me and all the Oireachtas Members for Cavan-Monaghan with the chief executive officer of the HSE.

  I do not have details on the disadvantaged area projects the Deputy mentioned.  If he submits them to my office, I will seek to get a response for him.


Deputy Pat Breen: Has the Minister seen the HIQA report on patient safety at Ennis General Hospital?  When will the report be published?  Will the Minister assure us that the €39 million earmarked for Ennis General Hospital will be ring-fenced and spent in the hospital?  Let us be clear on this as it is an opportunity for a one to one exchange and my good colleague, Deputy Dooley, is also in the House.


Deputy Mary Harney: Every reform is opposed by Deputy Reilly.  With regard to the HIQA report, it will be published.  I have not seen it but I understand it has not been completed.  As soon as it is completed, I will—–   Deputy Mary Harney: I hope it is published as quickly as it is completed.  This is the intention.  We do not sit on reports like that. Deputy Mary Harney: Anybody that may be adversely affected by the findings must be given an opportunity to make a contribution.  HIQA is no different from any other organisation carrying out an inquiry.  It must follow due process.


   Deputy James Reilly: The people affected were crying out for HIQA months before the Minister let it do the inquiry. Deputy Pat Breen: I asked the Minister a question about the €39 million for the hospital and she refused to answer it like she refused to answer all questions asked this evening.  There is a problem—–


   Deputy Timmy Dooley: There is and it is over there.


   Acting Chairman: In fairness, there were more questions asked in a half an hour than is normal.


   Deputy Pat Breen: There were no answers.  Deputies Dooley and Mansergh were arguing about the “golden hour”.  There is no unity there.


   Deputy Mary Harney: It is about convenience and not quality.