Wednesday, 22 June 2016
I welcome the Minister of State and congratulate him on his appointment. I want to raise the issue of the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Rochestown Avenue, Dún Laoghaire. I do not intend to give a history lesson but those involved and those with knowledge of this hospital will know of numerous fancy elaborate schemes to rebuild the hospital. They all fell and came to nothing. Eventually, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council was asked, in conjunction with the property owners, to rezone a substantial amount of the land for medical use. A new scheme was drafted. Now, we have An Bord Pleanála fast-tracking the plan. An Bord Pleanála finally granted permission for a substantial redevelopment of the site. This is to be welcomed.
Before I go any further I wish to acknowledge the extraordinary work of the hospital board of management, staff and practitioners. The hospital deals with brain injuries, stroke, neurological conditions and serious health issues. It should be an absolute priority for the Department of Health to have a state-of-the-art, fit-for-purpose built-and-designed national rehabilitation hospital on the island of Ireland.
I am calling on the Minister of State to keep the pressure on and reassure us that this project is now on-track despite the previous setbacks. That is important for the staff, patients and families who are tapping into the services. The services are excellent. The staff are working under difficult circumstances and conditions.
My principal concern relates to the ownership of the site. The Minister of State may not be aware but these lands became subject to an agreement with the redress scheme and the religious order in question. There is some concern that this process has not been completed and that the full transfer of these lands or the conditions of the agreement in respect of these lands entered into by the HSE and the landowners is in question. While the project is progressing, contracts are being drawn up and tendering processes are being pursued, we want to avoid a situation whereby there is an issue relating to the ownership of the site. Clearly the State cannot fund and resource a facility on lands in respect of which the title or ownership is not clear.
I call on the Minister of State to use his office to expedite this, take up the issue with the religious order in question and get reassurances. Ultimately, State investment and money is going into this project. It would be a terrible shame to have an obstacle relating to these issues at the last minute.
I am not privy to the finer detail, although I have an idea of what was going on. Anyway, whatever commitments were given and whatever the conditions, let them be carried out to the letter of the agreement in order that we can get this project under way.
I thank Senator Boyhan for his warm welcome and I congratulate him on his election to Seanad Éireann. Like myself, he has been around for a number of years trying to get in. It took me ten years to get in here. I wish him well in future and I wish him the best of luck.
I thank Senator Boyhan for raising the issue of the development of the National Rehabilitation Hospital. I welcome the opportunity to outline the current position with regard to this major capital investment development. The National Rehabilitation Hospital provides a comprehensive range of specialist services to adult and paediatric patients who, as a result of accident or injury, have acquired physical disability and require specialist medical attention. Effective rehabilitation draws on a broad range of disciplines to meet the particular needs of individuals. I agree with the comments of the Senator on the excellent staff working there. The objective is to assist with returning to life in the community with confidence. Approximately 1,000 people are treated on an inpatient basis at the hospital each year. Approximately 5,000 people are treated on an outpatient basis. Many patients have a lifelong association with the hospital. Therefore, the completion of the new national rehabilitation hospital is the priority project in the rehabilitation medicine sector.
An Bord Pleanála has awarded planning permission for a 120 replacement bed ward block. It will include support therapies to paediatrics and acquired brain injury units as well as a hydrotherapy unit and a sports hall. An Bord Pleanála has agreed that.
The design is finalised and the preparation of tender documentation is under way. Procurement of construction contractors has commenced and within the next week a notice will be advertised in the Official Journal of the European Unionrequesting expressions of interest for suitable contractors. The NRH should be in a position to appoint a contractor at year end, with construction proper commencing in early 2017. On this basis the new facility could be completed in 2018. A small enabling works contract will commence in quarter 3 of this year and will be complete by the end of the year. The hospital is externally accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities. The commission sets standards of quality by which an organisation providing rehabilitation services is assessed and measured in the delivery and development of medical rehabilitation services. The Government is committed to the development of the facilities at the National Rehabilitation Hospital. I look forward to the work commencing in the near future and to the completion of a new national rehabilitation hospital.
I take the point made by Senator Boyhan in respect of the ownership of the site and the conditions of the agreement. That is something we have to be careful about. Senator Boyhan also raised the issue of lack of clarity over the lands and title. I will give a commitment to Senator Boyhan to follow up on the aspects of this question he has raised, because we cannot have anything that will block the development of this major project.
I thank the Minister of State for his comprehensive response. I reiterate the importance of the full title and agreement. It is important that the details of any agreement entered into for that particular site or block of land are examined in great detail.
There is little detail in respect of finance and the Government co-funding this project. I intend to come back to the Minister of State on this issue because this is being funded somewhere. We need reassurance that all of this is on target in terms of the detailed finances. Anyway, that is for another day and I can raise it with the Minister of State at that stage. Of critical importance now is the question of the land and whatever was agreed under the redress scheme.
I will follow up on the full title and land issue. Senator Boyhan might come back to me on the finance issue. I presume everything is on target in that regard, especially given the extra allocation in health this year. Furthermore, increased resources will turn up in respect of health and disability services in 2017. Again, we have to keep an eye on the matter and I agree with Senator Boyhan in that regard.