Seanad debates

Wednesday, 27 October 2004

7:00 pm

Photo of Diarmuid WilsonDiarmuid Wilson (Fianna Fail)
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I welcome the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, Deputy Brian Lenihan, to the House. For the last several years Cavan and Monaghan general hospitals have been constantly in the national media spotlight and the subject of continuous unwarranted negative publicity. On Wednesday, 29 September, counties Cavan and Monaghan received welcome news from the then Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Martin, when he announced that 24 hour, seven days a week medical cover was to be restored to Monaghan General Hospital with the recruitment of five new junior doctors. A larger emergency room will be opened on a 24 hour, seven days a week basis in Monaghan from the beginning of February 2005. Up to 19 additional beds are to be provided at Cavan General Hospital and ten additional beds immediately at Monaghan General Hospital. Three new surgical posts for the joint departments of surgery between the two hospitals will be recruited.

Cavan General Hospital was officially opened in 1989 at a cost of £16.3 million. Since then it has served County Cavan and parts of the surrounding counties of Leitrim, Monaghan, Meath, Longford and Westmeath. However, both hospitals have received negative and unfair publicity. I am anxious that the former Minister's proposals are implemented as soon as possible to help strengthen public confidence in both hospitals. Staff of both hospitals are some of the finest and I want to see them fully resourced to use their skills and experience to the best of their abilities. I ask the Minister of State to ensure that these changes are introduced as soon as possible.

I know he will leave no stone unturned to ensure that the people of counties Cavan and Monaghan and the wider catchment area have the range and availability of health services to which they are entitled. The provision of adequate health services for counties Cavan and Monaghan has been continually raised by the Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture and Food, Deputy Brendan Smith, and Senator O'Brien. I know they support the implementation of the September proposals.

This afternoon, with the Minister of State, Deputy Brendan Smith, I attended a meeting with the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney. We had a very positive meeting with her. I am convinced she and the Minister of State, Deputy Brian Lenihan, are fully committed to delivering on the proposals set out on 29 September this year with the former Minister. I look forward to the Minister of State's reply.

Photo of Brian Lenihan JnrBrian Lenihan Jnr (Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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I welcome the opportunity to respond to the issues raised by Senator Wilson. A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting a delegation of local authority members drawn from the same political interest as Senator Wilson on this very issue in Monaghan town. I agree that it is of the utmost importance that we ensure all necessary services can be provided at Monaghan General Hospital.

On 28 September this year, the then Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Martin, met with the North Eastern Health Board. The Minister was briefed on the progress made by the steering group which was established by the board to oversee the reconfiguration of hospital services across the Cavan and Monaghan group. I am pleased to say the report of the steering group was published last Friday, 22 October 2004, so Senator Wilson has raised this issue at an opportune time.

Arising from the meeting with the then Minister, Deputy Martin, the position in regard to the reconfiguration of services at the two hospitals is as follows: the board proposes to recruit five additional non-consultant hospital doctors to facilitate the early restoration of 24 hour, seven-day medical cover to Monaghan General Hospital at an estimated additional revenue cost of £500,000 in a full year. My Department is advised that the recruitment process is under way and it is anticipated by the board that these staff will be in place in early 2005.

Work has commenced on the development of an expanded treatment room at Monaghan General Hospital. The Department has approved capital funding of €750,000 for this purpose. It is estimated by the board that the project will be completed in a timeframe of 16 weeks. The board has advised the Department that the additional full-year revenue funding required to commission this expanded facility is in the region of €830,000. This submission is under consideration within my Department. I am aware Senator Wilson raised this issue with the Minister today.

The Department has approved revenue funding of €500,000 to commission ten additional day beds at Monaghan General Hospital. These beds are designed to facilitate the development of surgical services across the Cavan and Monaghan hospital group. The commissioning of these beds is to be progressed by the board.

The Department has given financial clearance for the recruitment of three replacement consultant surgical posts to facilitate the development of surgical services across the Cavan and Monaghan hospital group. Detailed applications in respect of these posts have been submitted by the board to Comhairle na nOspidéal for approval.

In recent days, the board has submitted details of the revenue funding and staffing required to commission an additional 19 beds at Cavan General Hospital as part of the reconfiguration of services across the group. This submission is now being examined by the Department. The development consists of the provision of an additional 15 medical beds, four high dependency unit beds and the conversion of two existing high dependency unit beds to ICU beds.

The Department is advised that the report of the Cavan-Monaghan hospital steering group was published on the 22 October 2004. The board now proposes to establish a formal implementation group to progress the various recommendations contained in the report.