Seanad debates

Thursday, 28 November 2002

Adjournment Matter. - Hospitals Building Programme.


Fergal Browne (Fine Gael)
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I welcome the Minister of State. The matter I wish to raise is very straightforward. Carlow District Hospital has been awaiting a ten bed extension for over ten years. I am not talking about a brand new hospital, merely a ten bed extension. It is a very modest request.

This matter is linked to the national development plan where it is seen as an entitlement for Carlow. The extension was first mooted in the early 1990s in the Carlow town plan and promised by the rainbow Government in 1996. Plans have been drawn up since, but the cheque has never arrived to allow work get under way.

To put the matter in context, there are 22 beds in Carlow District Hospital, 11 for male patients and 11 for females, to service the needs of County Carlow. Outside of Dublin, Carlow is one of the fastest growing towns. Carlow District Hospital provides a step-down facility, respite care and a capacity for dealing with short-term chronic injuries, such as those suffered by young people in a car accident, for example. It serves an urgent need in the Carlow area.

County Carlow has been treated with contempt. I have described it before as the Cinderella of the south east in terms of health services. I do not say this lightly. I hope the Minister of State will tell me when building work will start. I hope he will not tell me that there are plans afoot or that new plans are being drawn up. The plans are in place, the land is available and the beds are urgently needed in the Carlow area. Ten extra beds would make a huge difference to many families throughout the county, from Carlow town to as far south as Borris, right across to Tullow and back across to Bagnelstown.

I hope I will be pleasantly surprised by the Minister of State's reply when he will tell me, the people of County Carlow and the staff of the District Hospital who are working under very difficult circumstances that the hospital will finally get the money to proceed. Everything is ready to go. The plans are made and the land is available. I urge the Minister of State to tell the people of County Carlow when the Department of Health and Children will give them the money to which they are entitled under the NDP for this much needed ten bed extension.

Tim O'Malley (Limerick East, Progressive Democrats)
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I am pleased to have this opportunity to update the House on the progress of developments at Carlow District Hospital. A total of €2.54 billion at year 2000 prices has been approved by the Government for investment in the health services under the National Development Plan 2001-2006, the purpose of which is to create an infrastructure that will bring significant and tangible advances in delivering a more patient-centred and accessible service. There is a commitment from the Government to shift the balance of capital investment towards the non-acute hospital sector in order that NDP funding is equalised between the acute hospital sector and the non-acute hospital sector by the end of 2006. This will ensure a balanced development of modern infrastructure across the range of new health and personal social services to be founded under the national health strategy.

In the case of services for older people it is proposed to provide greatly improved physical environments for patient care to ensure a high quality and client-centred service. The health boards were advised in 2000 that funding would be made available for the capital development of services for older people over the period of the plan.

A broad range of facilities will either be provided, replaced or upgraded during the period of the national development plan. Plans have been drawn up to develop assessment and rehabilitation facilities, ambulatory care facilities, community hospitals, community nursing units, convalescent and respite beds, day care centres and services for the elderly mentally infirm.

The provision of health services in County Carlow is the responsibility of the South Eastern Health Board. Under the National Development Plan 2001-2006 the board was advised in early 2000 of indicative funding of €18.79 million for the capital development of services for older people. It is a matter for the board to prioritise developments in line with the funding to be made available under the plan.

I have been informed by the South Eastern Health Board that the need for a ten bed extension to Carlow District Hospital was identified in the Carlow plan, 1996, and subsequently included by the board in its proposals for funding under the National Development Plan 2001-2006. Individual projects are subject to the normal approval process in relation to funding and technical and other requirements governing the approval of capital projects.

A project team was established by the South Eastern Health Board to oversee the development of a ten bed extension at Carlow District Hospital. A planning brief has been completed and a design team was appointed to prepare the plans and specifications for the ten bed extension to the hospital. Tenders have been submitted by the board to my Department for approval to proceed to the construction stage of the project. These are being considered in the context of ongoing discussions between the board and my Department in relation to progressing individual projects under the national development plan.

The Seanad adjourned at 1.05 p.m. until 2.30 p.m. on Tuesday, 3 December 2002.