Tuesday, 12 February 2013
I also welcome the Minister of State, Deputy White, to the House.
As he will be aware, prior to the last election the issue of Roscommon hospital and Roscommon accident and emergency department was hot on the agenda in the county of Roscommon. Prior to the election, there were promises given by the Minister for Health, Deputy Reilly, that the accident and emergency department would be retained under his watch, and everybody in the county bought into that. Anyone who might have considered supporting me at the time decided that the next likely Minister for Health would not let them down and they supported Fine Gael.
Subsequently, as the Minister of State will be well aware, the consultants in Roscommon were worried that they were short of staff to ensure that the accident and emergency department operated fully within health and safety guidelines and they wrote to the Department of Health to inform it that they needed extra resources.
At this point HIQA got wind of it, and without ever calling to Roscommon County Hospital, shut down the accident and emergency department, more or less implying the consultants stated it was an unsafe place to work. What we have seen in recent weeks, with regard to the hospital in Kilkenny and extra funding for the accident and emergency department in Wexford General Hospital, has re-opened the debate on the accident and emergency department in Roscommon County Hospital. The people of Roscommon quite rightly feel aggrieved because instead of HIQA shutting down the accident and emergency department, investment could have been made in it to ensure it was up to the required standard. We must bear in mind an investment of ¤17 million was made in recent years in the accident and emergency department in Roscommon County Hospital. It is state-of-the-art and all that was lacking was the support staff sought by the consultants.
I had received a commitment from the former CEO of the HSE, Professor Drumm, that the accident and emergency department at Roscommon County Hospital would not be closed and that albeit it was under threat by the previous Administration, there was no question of it being closed. Although this was a HSE agenda with which Fianna Fáil was going to play ball, I had received a commitment from Professor Drumm that the doors of the accident and emergency department would not close until the advanced paramedics were up and running and had proven to the people of Roscommon over a period of six months that their service was every bit as good as, if not better than, an accident and emergency department. This promise was also reneged upon.
I have always stated HIQA was established by the HSE to be its chopping block and everything it has done to date has proven me right. In recent times HIQA was asked whether a health and safety issue would arise if many HSE front-line staff took early retirement and pressure was put on the services. It answered that it has no role in staffing, but it had a bloody role in staffing when it came to Roscommon County Hospital accident and emergency department. It stated it was time to close down the department because the staffing was not there.
I ask the Minister of State to relay back to the Minister, Deputy Reilly, that at this late stage he should consider putting in place a stabilisation unit in the accident and emergency department at Roscommon County Hospital so people in the area who have heart attacks, strokes or accidents can be dealt with, stabilised and moved to an appropriate hospital. At least they would know there was something behind the doors and would feel safe at night if something unforeseen happened. People feel let down.