Thursday, 11 April 2019
Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions
Simon Coveney (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
I thank the Deputy for his very reasonable approach to this issue. It is true to say that South Tipperary General Hospital has been under pressure, as have other hospitals, through the winter. Looking at the national picture, it is true to say that the trolley count through the winter months this year was about 13% less than last year and the lowest for the past five years. That being said, many individual hospitals, including South Tipperary General Hospital, have been under pressure at different times. There is a capacity issue in Tipperary, which is why the Government is committed to and has funded the building of a 40-bed modular unit to add capacity. It is under construction and will open mid-summer. My understanding is that there will not be staffing difficulties associated with the new unit, but I will revert to the Deputy later today with an exact response from the HSE on that matter.
On the circular from the HSE concerning staffing freezes, which has been raised this week in the House, where there are plans that are within the spending estimates of this year, there are no problems in terms of taking on more staff. In fact, the ambition is to take on significantly more staff this year, but that ambition has to be managed from a cost perspective. I will revert to the Deputy on the staffing implications of a new 40-bed modular unit in south Tipperary. It makes no sense to open that new unit with the aim of increasing capacity and taking pressure off the existing hospital infrastructure if appropriate staffing is not lined up to ensure that the unit can do what it is intended to do. I will revert to the Deputy later today with a more precise response on the staffing implications, the staffing decisions and the financing of it.