Seanad debates

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Commencement Matters

Hospital Services

2:30 pm

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I have not had a chance to visit Baggot Street yet but I am due to visit it in the next couple of weeks and to take a look at the place for myself. To the best of my knowledge, it is not used as an inpatient hospital any more, it is used for other services. Perhaps some short-stay services are provided but it is not used as an acute hospital, so to do what Senator Barrett proposes would mean turning it back into an acute hospital. That would have a very high cost associated with it, which the HSE Estates believes is greater than to build something from scratch.

There are big problems with the old hospital buildings. Very often one has 20 to 30 beds to one toilet and because the buildings are old, it is very difficult to put in additional toilets. While that sort of thing might have been acceptable in the past, that is no longer the case. Increasingly, our building standards for hospitals require people to be either in private rooms or to at least have 3 m on either side of their bed for infection control, which cannot be achieved in an old building. Such buildings also have very high running costs. There are enormous difficulties getting medical gases in because one has to pipe through stone walls sometimes. In addition, much of the new equipment, including the big X-ray machines, cannot fit through the doors and into the rooms in old hospitals where the only equipment they might have had in the old days was an X-ray machine.

The point the Senator made about the city centre and the fact the population is moving back there is worthy of consideration. Most of the old city centre hospitals, in effect, moved out to the suburbs. If I remember correctly, Jervis Street was one of the ones that went out to Beaumont and the Adelaide and the Meath hospitals went out to what is now Tallaght hospital. That reflected the fact that at the time, the suburbs were burgeoning and the city centre was emptying out. As the Senator rightly pointed out, good planning, good transport and common sense suggest that we should move people back into the city centre in the years to come. That process is already under way. If we were to increase the bed stock in the city centre area, it would make more sense to put new wings and new blocks into the likes of the Mater, St. Vincent's and St. James's hospitals.There are already three major hospitals not far from Dublin city centre. Accordingly, putting in a fourth one, with all the costs associated, would have to be considered. An opportunity does potentially arise over the next five to ten years because several existing city centre hospitals will become vacant. These include Crumlin, Holles Street, the Rotunda and Temple Street. Consideration will have to be given as to how they could be used for alternative health care purposes.


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