Thursday, 17 December 2020
Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions
On behalf of myself and the Regional Group, I would like to wish the staff of Leinster House and the Ceann Comhairle a happy Christmas and new year.
Just over a year ago, as a political outsider, I stood outside Leinster House with Hand on Heart campaigners. We delivered thousands of petitions to the Tánaiste's then office as Taoiseach on the funding issues around University Hospital Waterford, most especially the lack of 24-7 cardiac care for the south-east region. The problems in service delivery at University Hospital Waterford predate Covid-19. We continue to have some of the longest waiting lists in the country for all types of services, including: magnetic resonance imaging, MRI, scans; computed tomography, CT, scans; mammograms; endoscopies; ear nose and throat, ENT, treatment; orthopaedics; and ophthalmology.
When we ask the HSE for progress, it delivers us process. I mention the mortuary build of 2015, which the Tánaiste is well aware of. It has taken four calendar years to award a build tender of €5 million for a second cath lab. It is six years into the South/South West hospital group structure and still there is no move on bringing the Kilcreene Orthopaedic Hospital activity into University Hospital Waterford, as promised. It has taken us nine months to re-enact a three-day diagnostic angiogram list on site. We look at the national children's hospital spend of €2 billion. We look at the recent announcement in Cork of €70 million in imminent planning for a second children's hospital. We look at our Dunmore wing, which was completed in April 2018 but had no service budget applied until Covid-19 arrived. The palliative care services there, which were part-funded by Waterford Hospice, only received a grant of funding in recent weeks.
In line with recent trends, the HSE announced 12 new consultant appointment positions for University Hospital Waterford but they are not on www.publicjobs.ienor have they been approved by the consultant appointments committee. In other words, they are not coming for at least another 12 to 24 months. This is more process with no progress.
The present cardiac services remain the most toxic health issue for the south-east region. The hospital is planning to engage a phased introduction of a seven-day 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. cath lab service. This will basically give us 50% cover per working week. Last year, I spoke about people like Thomas Power, Una McDermott and Thomas Frisby, who could not access the cath lab on a weekend and died. Thomas Frisby's family has three healthcare workers and one of his siblings required access to the cath lab in the past ten days. They asked the question, which I ask of the Tánaiste, when will we see equality in the south east for 24-7 cardiac care?
We have heard major discussion this year on locking down the country to protect life. We have heard major discussion on equality for Ireland and for its people. On behalf of the Government, will the Tánaiste give a commitment to politically deliver increased funding to University Hospital Waterford and to deliver 24-7 cardiac care equality to the south east? We do not want any more reviews, procrastination or process in place of progress.