Seanad debates

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Commencement Matters

Hospital Staff Recruitment

10:30 am

Photo of Catherine ByrneCatherine Byrne (Dublin South Central, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

The Minister apologises for his absence. I will relay the Senator's concerns about the failure on occasion of Ministers to appear in the Chamber to deal with Commencement matters.

A paediatric insulin pump service was initiated in May 2015. The service is based in Sligo University Hospital, with outreach clinics in Letterkenny University Hospital. The Saolta University Healthcare Group has confirmed that the consultant paediatrician with specialty interest in diabetes who was instrumental in commencing the service is leaving the post in mid-April. It has recently advised the Department that a consultant paediatrician has been appointed to the post on a temporary basis. The permanent post is to be filled through public competition via the Public Appointments Service and this process is ongoing.

To address the issue of continuity, the clinical service arrangements for the management of the insulin pump service are being examined in consultation with the relevant clinical teams. There is one consultant endocrinologist at Letterkenny University Hospital providing the adult diabetes service which serves approximately 700 patients with type 1 diabetes and 6,500 patients with type 2 diabetes. The consultant endocrinologist is receiving support from a locum consultant general physician who has a diabetic interest. Additional clinics are being run on a monthly basis, with one or two extra clinics per month, to address waiting lists for the service.

The major focus in the past 12 months has been on seeing newly referred patients. The overall waiting list for no patients to be seen by the consultant endocrinologist has been reduced by 20% from 313 patients in 2015 to 249 patients at present. More significantly, the number of new referrals waiting for more than one year for a clinic appointment has been reduced by 80% from 97 in 2015 to 19 at present.

With regard to addressing waiting times for patients who require repeat appointments, work is continuing with the diabetic service to address this pressure, while simultaneously ensuring newly referred patients are seen promptly. The Saolta group advises that an adult insulin pump therapy service is provided for patients in the north west. The current number of adult pump therapy patients is 24. However, eight additional patients are transitioning to the adult service, while a further eight will move to the service in three to six months, bringing the number of adult pump patients to 40.

On the future of diabetes services in the north west, the Saolta group advises that a business case is being prepared in support of a second consultant endocrinologist, a diabetic nurse specialist and a diabetic dietician to further support the Lettekenny diabetes service. On the recruitment of health care workers generally, significant efforts are ongoing at national and local level to address staffing issues across the health service. It should be noted that the numbers of consultants increased by more than 130 between February 2016 and February 2017, while numbers of nurses and non-consultant hospital doctors increased by approximately 460 and 230 whole-time equivalents, respectively, in the same timeframe.

I note the Senator's dissatisfaction about the Minister's absence. I will convey to the Minister the various issues raised, in particular, the Senator's view that the Minister should be present in the Chamber. While I am not familiar with the process in place in County Donegal, I have provided a response to the matter raised.


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