It is time for this Government to end the hypocrisy regarding the future of 24 Hour Accident and Emergency Services at Ennis General Hospital.

February 12th, 2009 - Pat Breen

Speaking during the recent Fine Gael Private Members Motion calling on the Government to retain 24/7 A&E Services at Ennis General Hospital, Deputy Breen said “It is time for this Government to end the hypocrisy regarding the future of 24 Hour Accident and Emergency Services at Ennis General Hospital.     I support James Reilly on the position he has taken on this matter and welcome this Motion.   Minister Harney speaking here in this House last night said that the reason that people are worried about what will happen when services are removed from Ennis General Hospital is that “politicians are telling them that are going to die.” This is an outrageous comment.   If the Minister had bothered to come down to meet with the people of County Clare she would know that the reason the People of County Clare are worried is that Election after Election, Government Politicians of all shades have stood on the steps of the O’Connell Monument in the Square of Ennis promising that Ennis Hospital was safe and as soon as the Election is over the promises go out the window.   

 When the Taoiseach of the time Bertie Ahern breezed into the County in 2006 he pledged his support for the Hospital when he was asked by a local journalist.  He said and I quote “The Hospital is safe! People should be supporting this Government which is investing in this Hospital instead of chasing rabbits and hares around Clare.”    He even proclaimed that this commitment was written in stone “I have given this commitment in writing and people should stop beating the Drum.”   

Well! Bertie you have plenty of time now for chasing the rabbits and hares.   I am elected by the people of County Clare and I will never stop beating the Drum for the people of County Clare.   Unfortunately, though it is the people of County Clare who are now going to pay a huge price for this reckless abandonment of pre-election promises by Fianna Fail and the Green Party.

 The Minister for Food was happy to promise the sun, moon and stars to the people of Clare before the Election.   What’s another u-turn these days though to the Green Party?   

The under investment in Ennis General Hospital by your Government over the past 10 years is testament to the lack of political will and political clout in this Government to speak up for County Clare.    The Management and Staff at the Hospital have been starved of resources for years and every request for funding from the Government and the HSE has been met with resistance.  In October 2004 this lack of resources prompted the Consultants working in Ennis Hospital to comment in an open letter that I quote “Consultants working within the Mid West region notice a marked superiority in the resources available to patients presenting to Limerick Regional compared to Ennis Hospital.  This inequity of access to healthcare is wrong.”   The HIQA report is due to be published this week and I hope that the Moriarity and Kelly families get the answers they deserve following their tragic losses.   Lessons must be learned however the Accident and Emergency Department at the Hospital must not become the fall guy for this Governments lack of investment in the Hospital.     

This week the HSE confirmed that a Health Centre which was built in South East Clare at a cost of €500,000 will not open as no funding is available.  This plan to remove Services from Ennis from the 1st April just will not work.   Maybe it is an April Fool’s Day Joke.  I am from West Clare, I served as a Councillor in West Clare, the area is geographically widespread and the journey to Limerick Regional Hospital is a real worry for people living there.    

The Ennis Hospital Development Committee put the “Golden Hour” to the test recently and it took 1 hours and 43 minutes to get from Kilbaha in West Clare to the Limerick Regional Hospital.   A constituent of mine from West Clare said to me when I met him afterwards that “it would be easier to phone the Undertaker than to have to depend on this level of service”.  

In the absence of 24 Hr A&E Services at Ennis Hospital the ambulance service will be expected to deliver mobile emergency care throughout the County.   How are they expected to do this Minister when the current service is already operating on a shoe string?  I have pointed this out to you Minister on numerous occasions; the over reliance on on-call services, private ambulances being called in to supplement the Service; no 24/7 cover in Scarrif, yet you have not invested one cent in either upgrading the Ambulance Infrastructure or in providing extra human resources and now you expect the people of Clare to buy into a plan which is reliant on six Advanced Paramedics providing adequate emergency care throughout the County on a 24 hour basis.

Minister you have lost touch with the people out there.   Last night a patient was left on a trolley at Ennis General Hospital overnight because Limerick was not able to accept more patients.  What is going to happen after 1st April?  Where are the patients going to be left then?

Minister it is time to get real.  This plan will not work; it cannot work, it does not have the resources to work.   Minister I appeal to you; abandon this plan and shred this report.   

It is time also for Government politicians to end the double speak on Ennis General Hospital.  Deputy Dooley said here last night that “It is incumbent on all of us to ensure that these changes are made without delay” and then he went on to say that if the changes are to be successful, they should be supported by investment.  Is it any wonder that the People of Clare are confused and worried?   

 If Deputy Dooley and his colleagues want to Stand Up for Ennis General Hospital your time has come.  

Join with us here tonight; take one small step across the floor but one giant step to secure services at Ennis General Hospital for the People of County Clare.   

Join with the people of Clare and Tipperary and in the words of that Great Munster Anthem Stand up for and fight; fight for what is right in the best interest of the patients and people of Clare and Tipperary.  Support this Motion.