Seanad debates

Tuesday, 21 June 2005

6:00 pm

Photo of Michael KittMichael Kitt (Fianna Fail)
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I thank the Cathaoirleach for allowing me to raise this issue and thank the Minister of State, Deputy Seán Power, for coming to the House. As Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, he will have a particular interest in this issue.

There is in Tuam a very efficient committee called the Tuam cancer care committee. For many years it has raised funds in many ways for cancer care beds in the town, particularly for the Áras Mhuire building. I certainly admire the committee's efforts. Its members made the point to me that there are now two respite beds in place in Áras Mhuire but that staff are needed urgently. The HSE, western region, has funding for some staff. Only two or three staff are required. Funding should be made available to open the beds. All the other raw materials, including furniture, are in place.

It is very interesting that an anonymous donation of €100,000 has been made. It will not be on the table for too long if the conditions are not met. I hope the Department will match the donation. Money is available from the anonymous donor, a building exists and beds are available. Everything is in place but the staff. I hope the Minister of State can respond favourably in this regard.

The issue that has arisen in Tuam is associated with an ongoing campaign to have a Tuam health campus. If we get basic provisions such as an ambulance base, an Alzheimer's disease unit, a child care training centre and a community hospital to replace the one that was run by the Bon Secours order for many years, they will comprise part of the health programme that has been planned for many years by the former Western Health Board and now by the HSE, western area. The proposal of the former health board is with the Department of Health and Children. It ties in with what I am saying. It is tremendous that a person is prepared to donate €100,000 towards the cancer care respite centre. I ask the Minster of State to consider this matter. He should note that there is funding available for some staff but not enough. Until the extra staff are provided, we will not be in a position to say the unit can open.

Photo of Seán PowerSeán Power (Minister of State, Department of Health and Children; Kildare South, Fianna Fail)
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I thank Senator Kitt for raising this matter on the Adjournment to which I am happy to reply.

The report of the national advisory committee on palliative care was launched on 4 October 2001. It describes a comprehensive palliative care service and acts as a blueprint for its development. It is planned that the report's recommendations will be implemented over a five to seven year period.

The Department of Health and Children, the Health Service Executive and the voluntary sector are actively involved in planning for the development of palliative care services in line with the recommendations in the report of the national advisory committee. Funding is being provided for the development of such services on an incremental basis nationally in line with the recommendations in the report.

Since October 2001, an additional €16.384 million has been invested in palliative care services, including €2 million in additional funding that has been made available specifically for palliative care in 2005. This funding has been used to improve palliative care services in line with the recommendations in the report.

As the Senator will be aware, the provision of health services in County Galway is, in the first instance, the responsibility of the HSE, western area. It has advised my Department that an addendum to its service plan for 2005 was submitted to the acting chief executive officer of the HSE in December 2004 in respect of the palliative care suite at Áras Mhuire. The addendum set out the additional resources in terms of whole-time equivalents and funding required to open the unit. The additional resources required are 5.5 whole-time equivalent staff nurse posts and physiotherapy services. Their provision will require the allocation of €260,000.

The HSE, western area, has further advised that the structural work on this unit is complete, it is ready to be occupied and will provide accommodation for two persons with additional facilities to enable family members to remain overnight, if required.

For the service to operate, additional resources involving whole-time equivalents and revenue funding are required. It is understood that this is under consideration by the HSE. The HSE, western area, has stated it is aware of an anonymous offer of €100,000, being made available, on a once-off basis, subject to the proviso that a similar sum be made available to the unit by the HSE, western area. Senator Kitt mentioned this donation. I compliment the anonymous donor on such a lovely gesture. At a time when those who avoid paying their taxes are the subject of many of the headlines, it is nice to see there are still people who donate their own money anonymously for such wonderful causes. I hope the kindness of the person in question will be matched by the HSE.

Management of the HSE, western area, met members of the Tuam cancer care committeeto discuss this donation in recent weeks. While the offer of additional funding is generous, the HSE advised the organisation that it is not possible for it to open the unit on the basis of an offer of once-off funding. However, it is not too often that we receive such offers. I will contact the HSE over the coming days to ascertain how best we can avail of the donor's generosity and try to provide a very necessary service. I will communicate with the Senator in the near future.

Photo of Michael KittMichael Kitt (Fianna Fail)
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I also look forward to generosity on the part of the Minister.