Thursday, 11 April 2019
Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions
Séamus Healy (Tipperary, Workers and Unemployed Action Group)
South Tipperary General Hospital is a success story despite swingeing cuts to budgets and staff numbers and a shortage of beds. I compliment and thank all of the staff at the hospital, from the newest recruit to senior management, who work in partnership and as a team in delivering quality hospital services under very difficult circumstances.
In November 2008, in response to the HSE and the Department of Health proposals to downgrade the hospital and to transfer all of its acute services - medicine, surgery, maternity, paediatrics and emergency department - to Kilkenny and Waterford, the Save Our Acute Hospital Services Committee was formed. Working with the whole hospital community, all stakeholders and the public, the committee responded to the threat and put 15,000 people onto the streets of Clonmel to stop the proposals in their tracks. Success saw a huge increase in hospital activity, a significant increase in inpatient admissions, and a virtual explosion in outpatient and emergency department attendances. Side by side with this we had budget cuts, staff cuts and shortages of beds. The hospital today works at 120% capacity overall. The medical department works at approximately 150% capacity. Unfortunately, given that the hospital regularly has 40 or more patients on trolleys we are consistently near the top of the trolley watch figure. Last week the hospital had to appeal to the public not to attend the emergency department because of the huge overcrowding.
Despite the best efforts of staff, the conditions for patients in that overcrowded emergency department are totally unacceptable. Staff are under constant pressure every minute of every day. Fortunately, pressure was applied and led to the approval of a new 40-bed modular unit for the hospital, and after several false dawns that unit is now under construction and will be completed at the end of July. It was supposed to have been completed by June of last year. However, there have been significant delays in approving funding for equipping and staffing the unit. It is required urgently and should be opened immediately upon completion. I want the Tánaiste to confirm today and give us a guarantee that this unit will not be the subject of the staff freeze which was announced last week by the HSE. Will the Tánaiste assure us that staff numbers and funding will be agreed by the HSE and that the unit will not be subject to a phased opening into next year? It should be fully opened on completion because the hospital desperately needs beds.