Dáil debates

Wednesday, 5 October 2005

9:00 pm

Photo of Séamus HealySéamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
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This night three weeks ago a large public meeting was held in Clonmel on hospital services for the county. As the Minister of State, Deputy Tim O'Malley knows, the issue has been outstanding for quite some time. As far back as 1996 there was a High Court agreement for the provision of services on the Cashel and Clonmel sites. The Minister and the Department have not implemented that agreement. While work has been done and some units have been built on both sites, some of those units have remained idle for several years.

The meeting to which I referred was a large one at which all the Oireachtas Members from the county, hospital staff, health professionals, members of the public and members of all the local authorities in the county attended. The meeting was above politics since this issue is looked on as such in South Tipperary. It unites all public representatives and Oireachtas Members in the county. As a result of that meeting my colleagues have been in touch with the Tánaiste requesting that she meet a deputation of Oireachtas Members and chairmen or mayors of local authorities in the county. I hope the Tánaiste will agree to that meeting sooner rather than later.

As the Minister of State is aware, a number of units have been completed at Cashel. However, due to a lack of funding, they are not up and running. Not only that, but on the Cashel site, the Health Service Executive is waiting for approval to go to the tender process in phase two of the development. That development will include a 25-bed geriatric rehabilitation unit, a 20-bed GP assessment unit, a 15-bed nursing unit and convalescent unit, a five-bed palliative care unit and a 15-bed day hospital for the elderly. As it stands, none of those units have been built. The HSE is not in a position to go to tender because it has not got approval to do so.

While €30 million has been spent providing state-of-the-art facilities at the Clonmel site those units have remained idle for nearly three years because moneys have not been provided to ensure the transfer of the general surgical services to Clonmel. There is also considerable disappointment on the Clonmel site about the failure to commence the process of planning for phase two of the development there. That development will include refurbishing the maternity and gynaecology wards, new paediatric and acute psychiatric wards, a cardiac centre, an acute medical unit, an outpatient department and a day hospital for the elderly.

There is considerable disquiet in South Tipperary on this issue which unites the whole county including Oireachtas Members and politicians of all persuasions and none. There is growing concern, as that public meeting showed. A further report-back public meeting will be held in mid-November to find out the Tánaiste's response. I hope the Minister of State will be able to tell us the Tánaiste will meet a deputation from the county on this issue and that we can move forward with the development and the provision of services in Cashel and Clonmel as envisaged in the High Court agreement of 1996.

Tim O'Malley (Minister of State, Department of Health and Children; Limerick East, Progressive Democrats)
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I thank Deputy Healy for raising the matter as it provides me with an opportunity to outline the current situation in South Tipperary. The Deputy is aware of the background to the existing situation in respect of services at South Tipperary General Hospital and at Our Lady's Hospital in Cashel.

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. This agreement provided for the development of services for older people, disability services, palliative care services and mental health services on the Cashel site. It is planned to complete the developments in Cashel in two phases. Phase 1, costing approximately €12 million, has now been completed along with the design stage of phase 2.

In recent years, significant capital investment of €30 million has been provided for the new facilities in the phase 1 development at South Tipperary General Hospital, Clonmel.

In September 2004 the Department of Health and Children, in the context of commissioning new units in acute hospitals throughout the country, gave approval to the then 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, south eastern area, to open the new facilities at South Tipperary General Hospital. This year funding of €1.3 million was provided towards the development of the Cashel sector headquarters, day hospital-day centre and a new 12-bed community residence and work is currently in progress to develop this service.

It is clear that significant capital and revenue funding has already been provided to develop services in the South Tipperary hospitals. The development of Cashel phase 2 is contingent on the transfer of surgical services to Clonmel and the provision of capital funding for the project. Phase 2 of the developments at Clonmel must also be considered in the context of the health capital investment framework.

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 provision of services at Our Lady's Hospital, Cashel, and South Tipperary General Hospital, Clonmel. I understand a number of industrial relations issues are being addressed by the HSE in relation to the transfer of surgical services from Our Lady's Hospital, Cashel, to St. Joseph's Hospital, Clonmel. Provision of the necessary funding for the hospitals at Clonmel and Cashel is now a matter to be considered by the HSE in the context of the resources available to develop the services there.

The Tánaiste has already agreed to meet Oireachtas Members on this matter. Arrangements are being made with the Health Service Executive in this regard.