Dáil debates

Wednesday, 29 March 2006

Adjournment Debate.

Hospital Services.

10:00 pm

Photo of Denis NaughtenDenis Naughten (Longford-Roscommon, Fine Gael)
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Last Monday the Health Service Executive announced that it will commence a review of service configuration at Portiuncula Hospital, Ballinasloe, and the County Hospital, Roscommon. The press statement included the comment that the review would maximise the range and volume of surgery and other services in each of the two hospitals and stated that better collaboration would ensue between University College Hospital Galway and Galway Regional Hospital. In light of the Tánaiste's statement that the Hanly report is Government policy and Professor Drumm's endorsement of the report, I am concerned that the review is a roundabout way of implementing the Hanly report.

While the Hanly proposals have been implemented in the United Kingdom, one cannot compare that jurisdiction with Ireland. In terms of population density Ireland is a more rural country than the United Kingdom and, if implemented, the Hanly report would lead to the downgrading of the County Hospital, Roscommon, and Portiuncula Hospital, Ballinasloe.

The County Hospital has the fewest consultants, sixth fewest doctors and fourth fewest nurses of the 38 acute hospitals in Ireland. In conjunction with the review of hospital beds at Portiuncula Hospital and the County Hospital, such figures cause concern. Examining hospital beds in the two hospitals from 2002 to 2004 shows a reduction from 212 to 206 beds at Portiuncula Hospital and a decrease of one public bed at the County Hospital.

After nine years in Government the Tánaiste admitted we have a national emergency in accident and emergency units. The downgrading of the state-of-the-art accident and emergency facilities at County Hospital, Roscommon, and Portiuncula Hospital, Ballinasloe, would aggravate the situation, especially at University College Hospital Galway.

Research shows 30% of patients suffering major trauma die because they do not receive satisfactory care within one hour. I am concerned that this review will consider the relocation of services from either hospital to University College Hospital Galway or the downgrading of services at the two hospitals. We do not have much confidence in the HSE or the Government.

This week a decision was taken to locate the new ambulance base for west Roscommon in Knock, County Mayo. The lack of ambulance coverage in the region has caused a crisis, with 28% of ambulance call outs not being responded to within 26 minutes. This choice of location is unacceptable and I seek clarity from the Minister on this matter and on plans for County Hospital, Roscommon, and Portiuncula Hospital, Ballinasloe. The local community served by these hospitals should be consulted on this matter.

New services, such as telemedicine, should be considered. I suggest a pilot scheme at County Hospital, Roscommon, and Portiuncula Hospital, Ballinasloe, for the development of telemedicine to bring services to the community rather than withdrawing them.

Tim O'Malley (Minister of State, Department of Health and Children; Limerick East, Progressive Democrats)
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I am taking this adjournment debate on behalf of my colleague the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney.

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services is now the responsibility of the Health Service Executive, HSE. This includes responsibility for the provision of services and the development of services at Roscommon County Hospital and Portiuncula Hospital, Ballinasloe. The Health Service Executive has announced that it is to undertake a review of service configuration at the two hospitals. The objective of the review is to ensure that the most appropriate arrangements are put in place for the future deployment of consultant staff, particularly in the specialties of medicine, surgery, anaesthesia and emergency medicine, that is accident and emergency. The two hospitals are already closely linked and many consultant appointments are shared between them. The review aims to maximise the range and volume of surgery and other services in each of the two hospitals by developing greater collaboration between them and with Galway University Hospital as the regional specialist centre in the interest of increasing access for patients in Roscommon, east Galway and the west midlands to the highest quality services locally. The review will be carried out in close consultation with staff in the hospitals concerned and is expected to finalise its recommendations by mid-2006.

The Deputy will be aware of the recent developments that have taken place in Roscommon County Hospital, for example. the opening of a new accident and emergency department and a new medical assessment unit. The new developments include a wide range of facilities which will benefit the patients attending for treatment. The provision of a CT scanner for the hospital is also at an advanced stage and is included in the 2006 capital programme. The HSE plans to increase the range of day surgery and outpatient services provided in the hospital and to optimise the use of the hospital's new accident and emergency department and medical assessment unit.

Portiuncula Hospital is constantly seeking to improve services for its patients and some important developments are already under way, for example, the upgrading of the special care baby unit and the equipping of the new sterile supplies department. Upgrading of the existing accident and emergency department is expected to commence construction later this year. Preparation is under way for a comprehensive general upgrading of the hospital to start with a refurbishment of the ward areas.

Our plan for health is to build up hospital services in every region of the country. We want the people of the west of Ireland and of every other region to have full confidence in their health care services, in their hospitals, GPs and continuing and long-term care. The Government is committed to the continued development of services at these hospitals. Roscommon County Hospital already has an ambulance base. We have provided for developments at the hospitals in the past and the Government is committed to continuing the investment in services. Roscommon County Hospital and Portiuncula Hospital will continue to play their part in providing quality services for the people in the region.