Thursday, 28 November 2019
Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions
"No" is the straight answer to the Deputy's last question. Like everybody else in government, I appreciate the pressures the health service is under and the pressures that are sometimes imposed on parents and families. There are a lot of good things happening in healthcare but there are also real pressure points. Deputy O'Connell, as a mother and a Government Deputy, was expressing a frustration and a recognition of the need for significant investment in children's healthcare. Effectively, they reaffirm the need for a new children's hospital and continued investment in hospital care for children. It is not acceptable that a parent taking a child into a hospital emergency department, particularly when seeking specialist paediatric care, should have to wait for long periods of time. That is not acceptable to me, to the Government or to the Minister for Health. That is why we are changing how we provide hospital care and emergency care for children by making a massive capital investment in a new children's hospital, with satellite facilities in different parts of Dublin and elsewhere, including the large paediatric unit that was announced for Cork University Hospital in the past number of months.
The truth is that at this time of the year there are added pressures that have resulted in waiting times being longer than they should be in emergency departments, primarily because of flu, the vomiting bug and respiratory virus issues. In response, Children's Health Ireland, CHI, has restricted all elective and routine inpatient procedures in the coming weeks. The Health Service Executive, HSE, has issued an apology to all families whose children have had their procedure postponed at short notice. Every effort is being made to improve the situation and appointments will be rescheduled at the earliest possible opportunity. Influenza hospitalisations are increasing, as they always do at this time of year. The best prevention measure for parents is to ensure their children get the flu vaccine, which will help to reduce pressure on the system. I encourage parents, in particular, to think about that and to act on it to ensure we reduce pressure on the system.
Children's hospitals' emergency departments remain open, although patients attending have experienced some delays. CHI operates cross-city bed management for admissions to its three emergency departments in Dublin and the urgent care centre at Connolly Hospital, which is now up and running and will have a capacity to deal with 25,000 children over a 12-month period. Things are happening and this is a priority for Government. We know exactly the pressures on hospitals, both for staff and, more important, for patients. We are responding to that from both a policy perspective and an investment perspective.