Dáil debates

Wednesday, 11 May 2005

Adjournment Debate.

Hospital Services.

7:00 pm

Photo of Séamus HealySéamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
Link to this: Individually | In context

I wish to raise the urgent need for the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney, and the Health Service Executive to implement the High Court agreement for the provision of general hospital services in south Tipperary, including the transfer of general surgical services to South Tipperary General Hospital at Clonmel, the approval and opening of a general practitioner assessment unit, the staffing of the newly completed units at Our Lady's Hospital, Cashel, and the approval for the funding, completion, staffing and opening of the acute medical unit at South Tipperary General Hospital, Clonmel.

I am once again disappointed tonight that the Tánaiste has not taken the time to respond on this debate. It is disappointing to say the least that the Tánaiste, who was in the House a few moments ago, chose to leave rather than take this Adjournment debate. I understand that Deputy Cowley has another health related Adjournment issue. It is extremely disappointing that the Minister should not take this debate. She has been hiding from this issue. This is the sixth occasion on which I have raised it in the House since 1 February and on each occasion the Tánaiste has refused to take the debate or answer any of my questions.

During the passage of the legislation to establish the Health Service Executive last December, the Tánaiste assured us that she would ensure that our questions in this House were answered. Once the Bill had completed its passage, that was simply changed. One now receives replies to questions along the following lines.

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 provision of health services in south Tipperary. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief executive officer of the Health Service Executive ... to deal with the matter.

The Tánaiste is hiding from this issue and many others. I hope the Minister of State will have some positive news for me. I have enough documentation to paper every wall of this House, most of it ráiméis that I have heard over the past ten years. I want to know when the Tánaiste and the Health Service Executive will approve the revenue funding for units that were completed 12 months ago at Our Lady's Hospital, Cashel. When will the Tánaiste approve the GP assessment unit at the hospital? When will she fund the acute medical unit that is three-quarters complete at South Tipperary General Hospital, Clonmel? When will the transfer of surgical services from Cashel to Clonmel take place? I have enough paper to cover the walls of this Chamber, and I need answers tonight, as do the people of south Tipperary.

The county council asked for a deputation to meet the Tánaiste but received the reply that she was too busy to meet it, just as she is too busy to be in the House tonight to respond to this Adjournment debate. The reply to the county council maintained that the Tánaiste had a very full programme in the immediate future. Part of her responsibility is the provision of quality health services for the people of south Tipperary. This goes back to 1996 and a High Court agreement made between the South Eastern Health Board and the Cashel hospital action committee, and approved by the then Department of Health. Nine years later, we still have not implemented that agreement.

When will this happen? When will staffing be provided for the Cashel units? When will the funding be made available? When will the transfer take place? We were promised that it would take place last March, then by 1 June this year, and now it is up in the air. We do not know when it will take place, since it is now the property of the Health Service Executive for which the Tánaiste apparently has no responsibility. In any reply to a question that I get from the Tánaiste, she kicks matters into touch by referring it to the Health Service Executive. She is hiding from this issue, and I want answers from the Minister of State tonight. Please do not give me more of the same.

Photo of Brian Lenihan JnrBrian Lenihan Jnr (Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Minister of State, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Minister of State, Department of Health and Children; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context

I am giving this reply on behalf of my colleague, the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney.

Photo of Séamus HealySéamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
Link to this: Individually | In context

I hope the Minister of State has something to say.

Photo of Brian Lenihan JnrBrian Lenihan Jnr (Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Minister of State, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Minister of State, Department of Health and Children; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context

I thank the Deputy for raising the question once again. It seems to fall to me to reply to him. In general, I certainly recall——

Photo of Séamus HealySéamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
Link to this: Individually | In context

That is the same paragraph as in the Minister of State's last reply. I hope that he can do better than that.

Photo of Brian Lenihan JnrBrian Lenihan Jnr (Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Minister of State, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Minister of State, Department of Health and Children; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context

I recall replying on this subject to the Deputy before.

Photo of Séamus HealySéamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
Link to this: Individually | In context

Six times in the past two months.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
Link to this: Individually | In context

I ask the Deputy to allow the Minister of State to speak without interruption.

Photo of Brian Lenihan JnrBrian Lenihan Jnr (Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Minister of State, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Minister of State, Department of Health and Children; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context

The Ceann Comhairle is very indulgent in allowing the Deputy to raise the issue.

Agreement was reached in 1996 to amalgamate acute services in south Tipperary requiring the transfer of surgical and accident and emergency services from Our Lady's Hospital, Cashel, to South Tipperary General Hospital, Clonmel. Deputy Healy referred to the historical background. That agreement provided for the development of disability, palliative care and mental health services and services for older people on the site of Our Lady's Hospital, Cashel. It is planned to complete the developments in Cashel in two phases. The first phase has now been completed, comprising three units, a 20-bed unit for the elderly mentally infirm, a 12-place supervised community residence, day hospital and day centre, sector headquarters for mental health services, 12 independent living units and a day care centre for people with physical disabilities.

Photo of Séamus HealySéamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
Link to this: Individually | In context

If the Minister of State wishes, he can cut it short, since I have heard it all before.

9:00 pm

Photo of Brian Lenihan JnrBrian Lenihan Jnr (Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Minister of State, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Minister of State, Department of Health and Children; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context

The planning stage of phase two of the Cashel development has been completed. Refurbishment of the main hospital building is required to accommodate the following services: a 20-bed GP assessment rehabilitation unit, a five-bed palliative care unit, a 15-bed convalescent unit, a 25-bed specialist geriatric rehabilitation unit, a day hospital for older people, and the outpatients department. The development of phase two is contingent on the transfer of surgical services to Clonmel, the subject the Deputy has raised, and the provision of capital funding for the project.

In recent years a major capital development programme to provide the infrastructure to facilitate the transfer from Cashel to Clonmel has been undertaken to bring surgical and acute medical services together on a single site. The integration of acute services on one site will greatly enhance the services available to patients in the region. The amount invested in this is €30 million which is for the new facilities at South Tipperary General Hospital, Clonmel. There are various elements to the newly constructed facilities and they have been outlined to the Deputy in previous replies.

In September 2004, the Department of Health and Children, in the context of the commissioning of new units in acute hospitals throughout the country, gave approval to the South Eastern Health Board to commission the new facilities in Clonmel. In 2005, ongoing revenue funding of €3.8 million is available to the HSE's south-eastern area to open the new facilities at South Tipperary General Hospital.

Photo of Séamus HealySéamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
Link to this: Individually | In context

What about the Cashel services and the transfer to Clonmel?

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
Link to this: Individually | In context

Deputy Healy should allow the Minister of State to continue without interruption.

Photo of Brian Lenihan JnrBrian Lenihan Jnr (Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Minister of State, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Minister of State, Department of Health and Children; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context

The Health Act 2004 provided for the HSE, 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 provision of services at the hospitals to which the Deputy referred. The Department has been advised by the HSE's south-eastern area that equipment is being purchased and a number of industrial relations issues addressed in regard to the transfer of surgical services from Our Lady's Hospital, Cashel to St. Joseph's Hospital, Clonmel. In respect of staffing at Cashel and Clonmel, business cases are being prepared by the HSE's south-eastern area with regard to the resources required for the services.