Tuesday, 18 May 2010
Jerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)
I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Moloney. There is a need for a clear and precise statement on current and future rehabilitation services in Cork. The HSE has announced plans to close the orthopaedic hospital in Cork and transfer its operations elsewhere. That means there will be changes in the health care system with regard to the provision of prosthetic and orthotic services in the Cork area. It is important we look at what the HSE calls the reconfiguration of services or, in the case of rehabilitation services, provision and revision of services. This must be looked at in the light of best practice and global trends.
Many of those in the prosthetic and orthotic service area are concerned that the HSE is about to embark on a journey which will centralise all referrals to the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dún Laoghaire. There are discussions taking place with various stakeholders. I do not want to mention names in the House. We must assure the provision of a rehabilitation service in Cork and rehabilitation of better quality. The model we pursue must have the patient and his or her family at its heart. In St. Mary's Orthopaedic Hospital in Cork a consultant orthopaedic and plastic surgeon leads the rehabilitation process. We do not have a dedicated rehabilitation centre in the south such as that in Dún Laoghaire. If I am incorrect, the Minister of State may correct me. The rehabilitation of an amputee begins long before his or her operation takes place. I pay tribute to Mr. Bob Burns in Cork who has been a visionary campaigner for the provision of rehabilitation services and amputees in the south.
In the holistic approach to rehabilitation does it make sense to ask or force patients to travel to Dún Laoghaire? Why can we not provide a local service in Cork such that the requirement to travel would be reduced? There would be less competition for physiotherapy, prosthetic and orthotic services. I refer to a service that would not be in competition with the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dún Laoghaire but which would complement it. To be fair to it, the hospital in Dún Laoghaire does trojan work and I pay tribute to its staff. However, we need to have prosthetists and orthotists at the core of patient care in Cork. If we are to centralise services, I am concerned that the provision of rehabilitation services in Cork will be put on the long finger and that we will move away from the WHO model that regards community-based care as the best. It is important to keep patients from Cork in that region, where they will be near their families and they will have a support structure. I fear we are moving from a patient-centred rehabilitation model to one that is more economically driven.
I hope the Minister of State will have positive news on rehabilitation service provision in Cork and that the HSE will provide patients with the best possible service in the best possible place.