Seanad debates

Thursday, 5 May 2005

1:00 pm

Photo of Jim WalshJim Walsh (Fianna Fail)
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Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire seo inniu.

Before putting forward the case for Wexford General Hospital with which the Minister and the Tánaiste are familiar, it is appropriate to note recent investment in the hospital. This has included some innovations which are a credit to the former health board and to the staff, management and consultants in the hospital.

A day care centre for elderly people was recently opened, making a significant addition to the facilities. A CAT scan was provided recently for which 50% of the funding was collected locally. The remaining 50% came from the Department of Health and Children. There is a cardiac diagnostic unit and a medical assessment centre which deals with pre-admissions to the hospital.

While the hospital welcomes the increased population in the area, which has risen to 120,000, this increase entails infrastructural challenges. Over the past seven years since Fianna Fáil came into Government, the number of people treated in the hospital has increased by 25% or 26%. That has put a strain on the hospital as a consequence of which it is not unusual for the staff to resort to using trolleys and various locations, including the medical admissions centre forinpatient care.

This poses a problem for those seeking admission and for outpatients visiting for diagnostic surgery or investigations. It is disruptive and should not be allowed to continue in the medium to long term.

I am aware of the Government's commitment to the hospital and hope there will be an early announcement of an increase in bed capacity through the 19-bed unit under consideration. The outpatients department which accommodates five or six beds is adjacent to the accident and emergency department of the hospital which has seen an increase of over 50% in patient numbers in the past seven or eight years, imposing an inordinate strain on that section.

To improve the accident and emergency area involves vacating the outpatients department and installing new units. There are tenders for that to the tune of €2.6 million. I urge that be done as soon as possible, preferably within the 2005 capital programme. If it is not to be included in that programme I urge the Minister and the Tánaiste to use their good offices to try to put that on the agenda as quickly as possible. Only by doing so can they address the over-crowding in the accident and emergency unit.

Regrettably this issue has become highly politicised which detracts from many of the good news stories involving the hospital which is such a fine health facility for the area. This may also encourage people on the periphery of the county to use the regional hospital rather than Wexford General Hospital. The sooner these matters are addressed, the better.

5:00 pm

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Minister, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the provision of services at Wexford General Hospital.

There has been an increase of approximately 9% in attendances at the accident and emergency department of Wexford General Hospital between 2001 and 2002, a further increase of 9% between 2002 and 2003, and a 6% increase between 2003 and 2004. Overall admissions to the hospital have also increased by about 10% in the past two years, 15% in the past five years and 26% in the past ten years. Based on these pressures the former South Eastern Health Board identified the need to provide an additional 19 acute hospital beds.

The detailed capital funding programme for hospitals for 2005 is currently being finalised in the context of the capital investment framework 2005-09. The process will be concluded in the near future. The Health Service Executive will then be in a position to progress its capital programme in line with the overall funding resources available for 2005 and beyond. A decision on the additional 19 beds will be made in the context of the agreed capital framework for the executive.

As Senator Jim Walsh may be aware, it is the Tánaiste's intention to meet Members of the Oireachtas from the Wexford area once the capital investment framework has been approved. I am confident that the HSE will be able to address the need for additional acute beds at Wexford General Hospital. Gabhaim buíochas leis an Seanadóir as ucht na ceiste a chur agus tá súil agam go mbainfidh sé tairbhe as an bhfreagra.