Wednesday, 12 July 2023
Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters
The Minister of State is very welcome. I will be brief and to the point. This matter relates to the upgrade of the facilities at St. Joseph's campus in Longford. We have a fantastic radiology facility there that recently got some aesthetic works done but the X-ray machine is badly in need of an upgrade. A lot of services have been taken away from Longford and moved elsewhere, which means people living in my home county and my local area, in particular north Longford, have to travel upwards of an hour to access them. We want to maintain the services we have there on the campus.
Significant investment was announced by the then Minister for Health, Deputy Harris, a couple of years ago. Work is starting very shortly on the provision of an upgraded 43-bed care facility on the campus. Following a long campaign, we now have an additional hospice bed and that is going to be part of that plan to bring it up to two in conjunction with the local voluntary committee of Longford Hospice Homecare, which does a fantastic job in our area. We want to make sure we maintain the facilities we have. We want guarantees and commitments that the funding will be put in place to make sure we get that upgraded facility so the people in our county are able to avail of those services.
I also ask that the HSE look at the possibility of locating a minor injury clinic on that campus. A new clinic was opened up on the grounds of St. Francis hospital in Mullingar, in conjunction with Mullingar hospital, to alleviate people going to the emergency department there. It has proved very successful and I would like to see the same implemented on the ground in Longford to look after the people who live in my home county.We have had proposals on the table for a long number of years to move our mental health and disability services from being in a completely outdated and unacceptable building at present to which parents have to bring children to get supports and services to being co-located with the primary care centre, which is located in Ballyminion on the outskirts of the town. A building is available there that would be able to facilitate that. All we have heard is talk over the past number of years. I want commitments that the building beside the primary care centre will be upgraded, that our mental health and disability services will be moved to a state-of-the-art and fit-for-purpose facility to look after citizens in Longford, that the radiology department in St. Joseph's will be upgraded and that we will start the process of putting a minor injury clinic on the campus in St. Joseph's for the citizens of Longford.
I thank Senator Carrigy for the opportunity to provide an update on St. Joseph’s hospital, Longford and compliment him for his advocacy with the regard to the hospital.
The Government has delivered unprecedented levels of investment in our health services in recent years. There should be no doubt that investment in health has been a substantial priority for this Government. In just three years, the net core allocation for our health services increased from €17.9 billion to €22.8 billion - almost €5 billion more or a 27% increase in core funding between 2020 and 2023. That investment is clear tangible evidence of the commitment this Government has made to healthcare and healthcare reform. Enabled by this significant investment, the Government has been driving important reform initiatives working to deliver on the objectives of Sláintecare and building the capacity of our health service to address the changing needs of our growing and ageing population.
The capital plan for 2023 was published earlier this year. The plan includes the recommended funding allocation under each category, including €65 million in the equipment replacement programme. The equipment replacement programme is completed on a risk-based approach.
I can confirm that funding has been allocated under the equipment replacement programme 2023 to replace the general X-ray machine located in the radiology department at St. Joseph’s in Longford. Included in the project is the replacement of the X-ray machine and associated required infrastructure works. The HSE has confirmed the estimated timeline for completion is late quarter 4 of 2023.
Ballyminion primary care centre, PCC, has been operational since quarter 2 of 2013. Currently, primary and community healthcare services provided at this PCC, including occupational therapy, physiotherapy, speech and language therapy, dietetics, podiatry, social work, public health nursing services and counselling and health promotion services. Community healthcare organisation, CHO, midlands Louth Meath advises that proposals are underway to extend Ballyminion PCC. This extension would allow for the co-location of mental health and disability services in the one building.
The GP direct access to diagnostics referral pathway is also accepting referrals from general practitioners to provide radiology diagnostic scans to patients in CHO midlands Louth Meath, which facilitates access to these diagnostic scans for patients in the community setting and prevents unnecessary referrals to hospitals for these tests. Over 10,000 radiology diagnostic scans have been provided across the CHO to date in 2023 through the initiative and of these 156 were X-rays with the majority of the remaining being just over 8,000 MRI scans.
In addition, I am happy to confirm that the project to construct 43 replacement beds in a new-build facility at St. Joseph's Care Centre, Longford under the HIQA compliance programme has gone out to tender. While it is not possible at this point to provide a timeline for the construction of this facility, it is anticipated that construction will commence on this project by quarter 4 of 2023.
I thank the Minister of State for that comprehensive reply to all my queries. I am delighted to know that funding is in place and is ring-fenced and that a new X-ray machine will be delivered for Longford by the end of 2023. I would like to see ongoing work expedited regarding Ballyminion. It has been ongoing for a number of years. The Minister of State might bring the message that this needs to be expedited and put in place immediately back to the Minister for Health. The building in Longford is completely outdated, particularly for disability services, and is not fit to bring young children to, particularly those with additional needs.
I am delighted that work on the new care centre building will start in quarter 4 of 2023. We will delighted to see work on the ground. It is something we have been looking forward to for a number of years. I ask the Minister of State to bring back to the Minister for Health a message about the strong need for a minor injury unit for Longford based on the St. Joseph's campus to secure that campus. It is a fantastic facility with fantastic staff who worked all through Covid providing services to adults and the youth of Longford and we want to see that maintained.
I again acknowledge the work of Senator Carrigy in this area going back to his work with the former Minister for Health, Deputy Harris, in securing that location for this project. I will raise the issue of the minor injury clinic with the Minister for Health and the timelines for delivering the project, which are very important for the people of Longford.