Thursday, 21 May 2020
Covid-19 (Health): Statements
Catherine Connolly (Galway West, Independent)
The Minister might confirm that.
I want to zero in on nursing homes. Again, for the record, I do not believe they were prioritised. My office has checked when it came to our attention from Europe that there were serious problems in nursing homes. It was way back in early March. We did not learn from other countries but perhaps we will learn now.
I turn to private hospitals and preface my remarks by saying I am an absolute advocate for public medicine. However, the manner in which the arrangement with private hospitals has been carried out has not been fair or equitable. The Minister did not lay the contracts before us. He laid the heads of agreement but the rest is commercially sensitive and we cannot see it. I am in receipt of quite a lot of correspondence telling me the hospitals in Galway are at 15% to 20% capacity. We are paying €115 million per month. We have major waiting lists and our two private hospitals in Galway city are at 15% to 20% capacity. The hospital itself - I must be wrong about this figure but it is what I have been told - was at 30% to 40% capacity as of 15 May. The Minister has stood in the Chamber and told us he had to make such arrangements, and certainly I welcomed the narrative at the time that we were taking over the private hospitals to deal with a pandemic. However, we are not utilising them.
On top of that, I was talking to somebody yesterday about Merlin Park Hospital in Galway, which has a state-of-the-art rehab service. It has a gym and all types of therapists but it is now lying idle because, under this deal, the Government transferred the patients from that wonderful facility to a private hospital. It took the therapists and patients into the private hospital to allow them to get up to 15% or 20% capacity. It sent the nurses into the public system and left the system empty at Merlin Park, and that is to mention only one service. None of the way this has been done makes sense to me. Surely anybody with a bit of sense would know that when the terms and the heads of agreement were signed, it should have allowed for change. Will the Minister please give us a copy of the contract so that we can see what we are dealing with? Will he state we can change this so that we can bring capacity up to 100%?
I have two letters to hand, one from someone who has been on a waiting list for some time but is not being taken for treatment and another from a person who has been diagnosed with cancer of the uterus. The latter has got her diagnosis but there is no surgery because a memo two weeks ago stated there would be no surgery until September. There are many other examples while our hospitals are empty. Furthermore, there is a complete lack of equity and fairness in respect of how consultants are being treated. Private ones can see no private patients, whereas other consultants on mixed contracts can see private patients in public hospitals.
I do not expect the Minister to agree with me but surely he will admit we have a serious problem on our hands in the way this is being carried out.