Seanad debates

Thursday, 14 December 2017

10:30 am

Photo of Pádraig Mac LochlainnPádraig Mac Lochlainn (Sinn Fein) | Oireachtas source

I want to raise the crisis in Letterkenny University Hospital. Letterkenny has the sixth-largest hospital in the State in terms of inpatient numbers, with approximately 23,000 every year. It is a major hospital, not a minor or medium-sized hospital. The funding the hospital has received, compared to other major hospitals in the State, puts it at the bottom of the league. It has clearly been discriminated against for years.

What happens as a result of this discrimination? Again and again, we have the highest numbers of patients, many of whom are elderly people, on trolleys every day because of the over-crowding in the hospital. The doctors and nurses are under ferocious pressure. When people get into the system, they praise the doctors and nurses but they are under ferocious pressure. They are left with an impossible task and the stress is unbelievable.

The impact on waiting lists is significant. One in eight of the men, women and children in Donegal is on a hospital waiting list. The number of people waiting over a year and a half is growing all the time. We are facing an absolute scandal.

In that context, the hospital management appealed to the HSE for funding to reopen what is called the short-stay ward. It houses 20 vital beds to take the pressure off front-line staff and give patients dignity when they come to the hospital. The management team expected to have good news in October. They expected to have the extra beds as we approach the inevitable winter crisis and challenge. They applied for €1.8 million under the critical unmet need and winter surge initiative. The urgency is clear even in the title of the scheme that these people have applied under.

Even at this late hour, I appeal to the Government. I call on the Leader to bring this to the attention of the Minister for Health and the senior officials in the HSE. They have to meet this request. We already have a crisis. I do not even want to think about what we are facing in the weeks ahead if they do not meet this request. The matter has been raised again and again by me and other public representatives in the county in recent weeks and months. I am appealing to the Leader today. This is the last opportunity I have this year. Will the Leader bring this to the attention of the Minister for Health? The facts are incontrovertible. The hospital has been profoundly discriminated against in funding. We need this funding. This ward is empty. Next week, the short-stay ward will be empty. The beds will be unoccupied when there is a crisis in the hospital, and that is unforgivable. As we come close to Christmas, I am appealing to those responsible to get this sorted once and for all.


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