Seanad debates

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Commencement Matters

Hospital Services

2:30 pm

Photo of Sean BarrettSean Barrett (Independent) | Oireachtas source

I, too, welcome the Minister. The last time I met him in person was at the funeral in Dundalk last Thursday. I was with him this morning via the use of technology during his interview on "Morning Ireland" on the care of people in hospitals outside the jurisdiction.

I tabled this issue for discussion in the Commencement debate having read in a newspaper article that Baggot Street Hospital was to be sold for €14 million. According to Department of Health archives, there were 193 beds in the hospital, which equated to a capital cost of approximately €73,000 per bed. In terms of their replacement, according to data from the HSE capital spending programme, the cost of the provision of 50 beds at Tralee General Hospital is €9.4 million, while the cost of the provision of 100 beds in Ballincollig hospital is €19.47 million, which equates to approximately €190,000 per bed. I am concerned about the bad value being obtained by the Department of Health in the sale of Baggot Street Hospital, particularly in the context of the Minister's remarks this morning on having to send people abroad, the widespread recognition - there is no one more avid in recognising it than the Minister - of lengthening hospital waiting lists and future shortage of capacity in hospitals. Prima facie,it does not appear to be a good deal to sell the 193 bed spaces at Baggot Street Hospital for €14 million. Is it worth investigating whether it would be more useful to retain them in the system, in which, as the Minister will agree, they are badly needed?

Having read the data, I estimate that approximately 674,000 bed days have been lost in the city centre of Dublin following the closure of the Adelaide Hospital, Sir Patrick Dun's Hospital, Dr. Steeven's Hospital, Mercers Hospital, the Meath Hospital, St. Vincent's Hospital on St. Stephen's Green, the National Children's Hospital, Jervis Street Hospital and the Richmond-St. Lawrence's Hospital. Following the sale of Baggot Street Hospital, a further 62,000 possible bed days will be lost. It is also proposed to remove beds from Holles Street Hospital and the Rotunda Hospital. Based on an analysis of the last population census in Dublin, prepared by Mr. Jamie Cudden of Dublin City Council, Mr. Brian Hughes of the Dublin Institute of Technology and Mr. Declan Redmond and Mr. Brendan Williams of the School of Geography in UCD, we are moving hospitals away from the direction in which the people are moving.They found a 62% increase in Dublin city centre between the 1991 census and the 2011 census. They stated that the increase reflects the high level of apartment building in the inner city from the late 1980s onwards.

They point out that the rest of the Dublin City Council area had a decrease of 1.2% in the population between 1991 and 2011. We all want hospitals near where people live, which is increasing in the city centre, and where people work, which happily is increasing in the city centre. Is this deal justifiable given the need to have hospitals near where the people are and an area of rapidly increasing population? I was surprised to read what the three scholars found about the increase in the population in the centre of Dublin. Prima facie, it does not look like good value for money to do so, given the cost of replacing those beds elsewhere.

In his interview with Cian McCormack this morning, the Minister welcomed anything that throws up cost comparisons. I had tabled the motion before I heard the Minister speak, but it is in that spirit. I agree with him; if it turns out that what we have before us today does not make financial sense, at least we will have discussed the hypothesis. He said that anything like that strengthens his case for spending. He mentioned keeping taxpayers' money in Ireland when he has debates with his colleagues. It could also shorten waiting lists and strengthen his case for more funding.

In that spirit that we are all on the one side on this particular issue, does the closure make sense given the location of the patients? Does it make sense given the cost of beds in our health service?


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