Dáil debates

Thursday, 21 November 2019

Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate

Maternity Services Provision

4:30 pm

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour) | Oireachtas source

I appreciate that many of the things the Government is involved in are beset by confusion, lack of budgets and lack of management, as highlighted in the discussion on the previous matter.

What exactly is happening with the Rotunda, the biggest and oldest maternity hospital in Ireland? It seems like another country since 2015 when the then Minister for Health, and now Taoiseach, announced that the Rotunda would be relocated to Connolly Hospital Blanchardstown as part of a six-year health capital programme. Based on what the Taoiseach outlined at the time, we should be in the middle of the planning if not heading towards the construction of a new maternity hospital in the north-west Dublin to allow the Rotunda to continue to provide the best of care to mothers and babies for another 100 years. All I can find are really sad stories from the Rotunda of the hospital being overwhelmed and not properly resourced by the HSE.

When the announcement about the Rotunda relocation was made, there was a timeline and a sense of planning regarding what would happen. Since then, a number of studies have been undertaken. However, no capital allocation has been made. I will not go into the difficulties besetting its sister hospital in Holles Street in moving to the campus at Elm Park. I just want to concentrate on the Rotunda and the impossible conditions that the leadership in the hospital, including the Master, Professor Fergal Malone, have outlined, such as, for example, the dangers for newborn babies and babies who require intensive care.

With the Blanchardstown project now seemingly placed on the long finger and with the facilities in the Rotunda getting older, more worn and increasingly overcrowded by the day, there have been several serious outbreaks of infection. There has been harm and illness to babies.

We have even had an argument by the master that a new urgent care facility for newborn and premature babies needs to be developed. We cannot get any answers out of the Government that make sense and that offer a budget, timeline and, most of all, hope to the families who are looking forward to having a baby, the women who will have a baby, and the babies that will be born, it is to be hoped, in conditions of maximum safety.

I know the Minister of State is sent in to the Chamber to answer questions that are not her direct responsibility as a way of deflecting the issue. What exactly is the Minister for Health for if he is not looking out for the care of mothers and babies with regard to maternity services? What is he for? I do not know what he is doing with his time. He seems to be down in places like Wicklow with schoolchildren launching the national broadband plan, which will cost €3 billion. This is an overpriced project if ever there was one. Could some of those billions not have been redirected to our maternity services? It does not seem like a difficult thing to do.

What is happening with regard to the Rotunda? When will the move to Connolly Hospital take place? Are the interim facilities that have been indicated for the west side of Parnell Square in the form of intensive care unit facilities for newborn babies being progressed or have they vanished?


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