Thursday, 10 February 2005
Question 5: To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason she has commissioned a report from experts on the Tuam Hospital project given that the Western Health Board has already prepared a planning brief which was lodged with her Department in 2002 and given that the project is supported by the Western Health Board, the west regional authority and underpinned by the national spatial strategy. [4319/05]
As the Deputy will be aware, the Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver or arrange to be delivered on its behalf health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the proposed developments at Tuam Hospital.
The HSE western area has prepared a project planning brief for the Tuam health campus incorporating a community hospital, Alzheimer's unit, child care training centre, primary care unit and an ambulance base. This proposal was one of a number of proposals for capital funding submitted by the HSE western area to my Department for consideration. As responsibility for the development of services now rests with the HSE, any decisions relating to this project will be a matter for the HSE having regard to the western area's overall capital funding priorities in the context of the HSE's service plan for 2005.
My colleague, the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, met a cross party delegation from Tuam Town Council at the end of January and was briefed on the proposal to develop a health campus on the grounds of the hospital. During the meeting, the Tánaiste acknowledged the importance of utilising facilities which were purchased by the State for health care use but said that this would have to be done in the context of the HSE's service plan for the western area. Members of the delegation put forward a number of suggestions on the options concerning the possible use of the Grove Hospital building. The Tánaiste undertook to examine these options and to revert back to Tuam Town Council. My Department will continue to liaise with the HSE to progress this project in the context of the HSE's service plan.
That reply appears to be at variance with reports circulated following the Tánaiste's visit to Galway at the end of January when she met the deputation from Tuam Town Council to which the Minister of State referred. I refer the Minister of State to an article reporting an interview with the Tánaiste which appeared in the Tuam Herald following her visit to Galway. She said she was getting some experts to examine the situation regarding the possibilities for this property and that she hoped this report would be with her within weeks. She went on to say that after meeting the Tuam Town Council group and hearing its view she would analyse its presentation and once she got the views of the experts she would hope to have further information in a few weeks. That is what this question is all about. Why was there a need to get experts to review this project, or what is the Tánaiste talking about?
Will the Minister of State agree that before the new Health Service Executive came into being the body charged with the delivery of health services in Galway, Mayo and Roscommon was the Western Health Board? Anticipating that he will agree with that, given that is the first line of the replies to questions from the Department, will he agree it is time to accept the report put forward and submitted by the Western Health Board to the Minister on 8 October 2002 requesting that a health campus be provided in Tuam that would consist of a community hospital, an ambulance base, a primary care unit and a few other facilities? If he does so, surely it is time to approve this project.
Will the Minister of State agree that the national spatial strategy which was launched in 2002 lists 11 characteristics to identify a hub town, one of which is that a hub town would have a local or community hospital? Assuming he agrees with that because it is a characteristic listed in the national spatial strategy document, will he agree it is time to sanction this proposal and for the Government to indicate it supports that strategy? The Government can indicate that by sanctioning this project and, thereby, indicate that it also supports the national spatial strategy.
I am not familiar with the Tuam Herald nor am I responsible for what appeared in it. The people examining this project are in the HSE. The Deputy is obviously familiar with the position in Tuam. This is about utilising facilities which were purchased on behalf of the State and maximising the benefits for the particular area. The HSE is examining this project. In 2001, the health service acquired the old Bon Secours Hospital and surrounding site in Tuam. It is a matter of progressing work on that and utilising it.
The Tánaiste indicated when she met the group that she would ask the HSE to examine this project and that she expected it to report within a few weeks. That meeting took place at the end of January. In a matter of a few weeks we hope to have a report on this project and we will communicate then with the Deputy.