Seanad debates

Thursday, 3 October 2019

Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters

Hospital Accommodation Provision

10:30 am

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

We are approaching next Tuesday's budget. The day after last year's budget, our local Minister in County Donegal, Deputy Joe McHugh, told the people of Donegal on Highland Radio that all 20 beds in a short-stay ward that had been closed would be reopened. He said that recruitment was commencing that day and that he had spoken to the manager of the hospital. We were worried that this commitment was not going to be honoured, but shortly afterwards, the Minister for Health promised the people of Donegal that these beds would be reopened. Since that promise was made by the two Ministers, funding has been received for the reopening of five beds. Thanks to the efforts of the Saolta University Health Care Group, which oversees Letterkenny University Hospital and has been working with public representatives in Donegal, we managed to get funding to increase the number of beds to be reopened to ten. While it has been helpful that half of the beds have been reopened, we still have a serious crisis at Letterkenny University Hospital. It is reported on local radio every day that large numbers of people are on trolleys. Yesterday, 38 people were waiting for beds in the hospital. I find it unfathomable that the Minister has not kept his promise.

Here we are again at budget time. I am led to understand clearly that the recruitment embargo is the only reason we do not have the 20 beds. The management team at the hospital has attempted to put in place a range of people across the hospital spectrum, including cleaners, porters, nurses, doctors and consultants. They are being prevented from appointing new personnel. The embargo has to be waived in Letterkenny. The Minister is watching as large numbers of people, many of whom are elderly, have to wait in the emergency department for long periods before being placed on trolleys. There is a wider issue in the county. Over the past ten years, our community hospitals have lost one in four of their beds and one in four of their nurses. The Government has cut the number of beds in our community hospitals and in our major hospital in Letterkenny. It has also cut home care packages. There are blockages in the entire system. I intend to hold the Minister for Health to account for the key issue in this regard, which is his promise that all 20 beds closed in the short-stay ward would be reopened. I call on him to keep his word and to stand by his promise to the people of Donegal. The recruitment embargo should be lifted to allow the hospital to recruit the necessary nurses to get the beds opened and to try to take the pressure off the entire hospital, particularly the nurses, doctors and staff in the emergency department, who are doing impossible work every day under impossible circumstances.


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