Seanad debates

Tuesday, 12 November 2002

Adjournment Matters. - Hospitals Building Programme.


Michael Finucane (Fine Gael)

I am pleased the Minister of State is taking this matter because he is familiar with St. Ita's Hospital, Newcastle West, which he visited on the return journey from his recent trip to Killarney. I am sure he saw the facilities there. During the past four years the hospital has also been visited by the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Martin, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Cowen, and the Taoiseach. The Minister of State's party is familiar with the requirements of the Alzheimer's unit at Newcastle West.

St. Ita's Hospital was constructed in 1840 and was renovated in 1975. Many parts of the hospital require constant refurbishment. There is a great deal of pressure on St. Ita's in terms of coping with the elderly population in west Limerick which, potentially, could be over 7,500. Public representatives from the area are frequently contacted by people whose relatives have the advanced form of Alzheimer's disease.

The necessity for an Alzheimer's unit has been well proven and well documented by the Mid-Western Health Board over the past five years. A number of hiccups occurred in respect of the design of the new unit and money allocated by the Government was spent on refurbishment. What St. Ita's needs is a dedicated unit because, at present, doors have to be locked in certain parts of the hospital, which is unfair to people who do not have Alzheimer's and those visiting them. There is an urgent need to put the unit in place.

That staff at St. Ita's are very dedicated and they and members of the wider community are disappointed that a specialised unit has not yet been put in place. In many instances, private nursing homes can provide facilities to cater for Alzheimer's patients but the premier hospital dealing with the elderly in the mid-west region cannot do so.

I raised this matter in the Lower House on 12 December 2001 with the then Minister of State, Tom Moffatt. I had believed that progress would have been made on this issue prior to the election. I understand that a planning notice was posted recently and perhaps this is an indication of forward movement. I hope the Minister of State is in a position to provide a positive response.


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