In Committee on Finance. - Vote 44—Hospitals and Infirmaries.

Thursday, 22 May 1930

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 34 No. 19

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General Mulcahy: Information on Richard James Mulcahy  Zoom on Richard James Mulcahy  I move:—

Go ndeontar suim ná raghaidh thar £1,298 chun slánuithe na suime is gá chun íoctha an Mhuirir a thiocfidh chun bheith iníoctha i rith na bliana dar críoch an 31adh lá de Mhárta, 1931, chun Eilithe mar gheall ar Ospidéil agus Otharlanna, maraon le hIldeontaisí i gCabhair.

That a sum not exceeding £1,298 be granted to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1931, for Charges connected with Hospitals and Infirmaries, including sundry Grants-in-Aid.

The only change in this Estimate from last year is the change in respect of the amount payable to the Cork Street Fever Hospital. The net deficit in the Cork Street Fever Hospital for the current year is estimated to be £1,382. For that reason the amount of the grant, which last year was £2,170, is reduced in the present Estimate to £1,400, so that the amount of the grant will be approximately the amount of the anticipated deficit.

[2410]Mr. Little: Information on Patrick J. Little  Zoom on Patrick J. Little  This Vote, although representing a comparatively small sum, is a very valuable Vote from the point of view of the hospitals in doing good work. It is a Vote on which one should take a serious view. It will be remembered that on the debate on the Hospitals Sweepstakes Bill the question was raised that, whether owing to its charter or rules, the Master of the Rotunda Hospital cannot be a member of the Church of the majority of the Irish people. The Master of that Hospital must be a Protestant. There has been a very curious instance lately where a very distinguished doctor was made a Master of the hospital, but before being appointed to the mastership he had to change his religion. I am referring to a person of whom Deputy Sir James Craig is thinking. Such is the absurdity of the rules. I think it is most inconsistent, and an extraordinary thing, that we should be voting money here to a hospital which takes up an attitude that is reminiscent of the penal laws. It is a question of status. A Catholic in this country is at least as good as his neighbour, and, if you like, no better, but that in any big public institution which is getting a sum of money from the public purse there should be a ban on professional men of the majority religion of the country is grossly offensive, I suggest, to the citizens of the country and the Government. In order to show our attitude on this matter we propose to vote against this particular Estimate. I think there is another hospital besides the Rotunda to which the same objection would apply, but as I do not happen to have the details in regard to it I do not propose to go into the matter. There may be, in fact, a third such hospital. I am perfectly certain as regards the Rotunda. We raised the question before, as Deputy Sir James Craig knows, when the Hospitals Bill was before us, as we thought the matter was sufficiently important to have it discussed at that time. We consider that the proper way is that all appointments as regards [2411] the medical profession should be made on merit only, and not on any other basis, and that no one should be excluded on other grounds, which should be considered extraneous to the profession. I think there are excellent reasons for opposing this Vote.

Dr. Tubridy: Information on Dr. Seán Tubridy  Zoom on Dr. Seán Tubridy  I agree with Deputy Little that it appears very absurd that in this year of 1930 the Rotunda Lying-in Hospital should have any provisions against the appointment of anybody on account of his religious belief, to the position of Master, and that it should at the same time be granted moneys from State funds. I see that the estimated income of the Rotunda Lying-in Hospital, exclusive of the parliamentary grant, is £11,269, and the estimated expenditure £12,341, showing a deficiency of income of £1,072. I would like to know whether the estimated income includes the amount of fees paid by students to attend that hospital. I take it on the average 50 or 60 students attend that hospital from different countries, and they pay about £12 or £13 per month—I do not know what it is now but it was that at one time—and that would amount to about £600 a month, which would mean a very big sum in the year. This money, I take it, is being paid in salary to the Master of the Hospital, and I take it that apart from the great amount of practice that comes to him from the honour of being Master of the Hospital, and the experience and reputation he would gain from being Master, he would be in receipt of the very big sum of about £5,000 a year from students' fees.

I see that the Coombe Lying-in Hospital is in receipt of £200 a year. As far as I know, there is nothing in the rules or regulations debarring one from the mastership of that hospital on account of his religious beliefs, but I think there should be a question raised by the Minister as to the method of appointment to the mastership of both these hospitals. They are run, as far as I know, by [2412] governors, that is, by four or five people who have no responsibility to the public, and they can appoint whom they like to these positions. I think that the Minister should query these appointments and the right of a certain clique or coterie of people to make these appointments. The salary is by far double and treble that which any Minister in this House is earning. I think, before money should be granted from any public fund here, that these appointments should be looked into and that the method of election or selection of masters in these hospitals should be seen to.

Mr. O'Kelly: Information on Seán T. O'Kelly  Zoom on Seán T. O'Kelly  I spoke on this subject before. The last time I spoke on it there was one aspect of it that had not occurred to me in connection with the question of the hospitals to which grants are paid on this Vote. After I had spoken on it a medical man, a friend of mine, raised a point with me that I had not adverted to. I do not know whether the Minister could give us any information on the point, but perhaps if he cannot now he might look into it. The Vote is small. This year it is just £1,200. It is not so much the cost of the Vote, but there arises, as was said here over and over again, a matter of principle with regard to it. These grants made to these various hospitals are made by reason of old Acts of Parliament as is set out here, “recommended for grants by a Committee of the House of Commons in 1854 and by the Commission of 1855.” None of us here wants to do anything that would be unfair or improper or would put these hospitals in a position which would prevent them doing the exceedingly good work that most of these hospitals, possibly all of them, are doing in the City of Dublin. Why the matter was raised here before by any of us is that it is putting these hospitals in a favoured position in comparison with similar institutions in Dublin and elsewhere. There are other hospitals that probably are equally badly in need of help from the national Exchequer and they get nothing. We put it to the Minister [2413] last year that if these donations are to be continued, the question of similar treatment for similar institutions in the City of Dublin ought to be raised by the Minister himself. Probably many of the hospitals, if not all of them, that are doing similar work and that I, at any rate, have in mind that could do with similar donations, were not in existence at all when these donations were agreed upon by the British House of Commons. We are continuing the practice. It is, of course, a good practice to support hospitals that are doing good public work as long as we can afford to do it. Again we want to emphasise the unfairness of it to other institutions that are equally needy.

There is one other aspect of the matter that, as I say, was put to me, and it is this: that so far as the staffing of a number of these hospitals is concerned, the professional men coming from the National University do not get a fair show. On the staffs of almost all of these hospitals if you are not a graduate of Trinity College you get little or no show. That is not fair. When that was put to me I said to the individual who told me that he should give me documentary proof, and he brought me, at the time, a list, first, of all the committees of control of these hospitals and then of the staffs of these hospitals. I know that in some of them his statement was not correct that the men from the National University did not get a fair show, but his statement was correct in so far as the majority of hospitals on this list was concerned. I was supplied with the list —I have not it by me now, but I can get it—of those who were responsible for the nominations and appointments, and also a list of the staffs, and judging by the results as shown to me, it would appear that the National University graduates did not get a fair show as far as appointments were concerned in a number of these hospitals.

If we are supporting these hospitals by public grants, we ought to insist on fairness all round. We do not want to be unfair to anyone. We [2414] do not want to take appointments from anybody unless on merit, but I think if there were a free and open field and no favouritism that the National men would certainly, under these conditions, have got a greater number of appointments than they seem to have got in the list shown to me of the staffs of a number of these hospitals. I think this is a matter which ought to be gone into, and if it can be shown that there is discrimination, not on the grounds of religion alone, because there are a good many Catholics in Trinity College, but on the grounds of being a graduate of one University or another, we ought not to subsidise any hospital on those conditions.

Dr. Tubridy: Information on Dr. Seán Tubridy  Zoom on Dr. Seán Tubridy  What is the House of Industry Hospitals?

Sir James Craig: Information on Prof. James Craig  Zoom on Prof. James Craig  The Richmond, Whitworth and Hardwicke. I did not intend to intervene in this debate because with Deputy O'Kelly I have felt at times that it was perhaps a little unfair that certain hospitals should be getting Government grants and others not. I think all will agree that it would seem to be fairer if this money were divided equally in proportion to the amount of work that the hospitals did. Before going any further I wish to say that as far as my own connection with hospitals is concerned, I was a student in the Coombe Hospital. I have no connection whatever with the Rotunda Hospital and therefore, anything I say in this matter is not based on any partiality. I think before we withdraw a grant of this nature that we ought to make further inquiries. The statement Deputy Little made came upon me as an absolute surprise. I may be living in a hut or in a queer part of the world, but I never heard that it was necessary that a change of religion should take place before the gentleman who now occupies the position he has obtained it. I want to go further and say that as far as an inquiry is concerned if there is in the Charter of the Rotunda Hospital a provision prohibiting the election of any gentleman who holds a particular religious view, I think it is time that that [2415] Charter should be changed. I say that quite deliberately. If the hospital expects to get a Government grant I think it ought to throw its positions open to everybody. I have been a considerable number of years in the Dáil and I have most consistently as far as I know preached the doctrine of the best man for the position. I do not think anyone can charge me with having any other view than that. I believe that it is right that the best man should get it. I am not going to enter into any discussion with Deputy O'Kelly as to the respective merits of the National University as against Trinity College.

Mr. O'Kelly: Information on Seán T. O'Kelly  Zoom on Seán T. O'Kelly  Would you not back your own?

Sir James Craig: Information on Prof. James Craig  Zoom on Prof. James Craig  My experience is that there are as good men produced by the one university as are produced by the other. I am not going to say, other things being equal, that I would not prefer my own. I would be a poor type of man if I did not. As far as I am concerned, I want to see fair play all round, but I do think it would be rather unfair to the Rotunda Hospital at the present moment to withdraw this grant without giving them an opportunity of explaining what the position is, because I have been assured that there is no such provision in the Charter. I may be wrongly informed on that matter. I should like to be assured that such is the case. I should also like to be assured that the statement made by Deputy O'Kelly is the case. If that is so I think it is a very serious matter indeed. I am sure he did not make such a serious statement as that without having good grounds to go on. All I can say is that I know nothing about it. I do not think it would be quite fair to the hospital at the present moment to withdraw this grant without giving them an opportunity of considering the position.

Mr. Maguire: Information on Bernard John Maguire  Zoom on Bernard John Maguire  There appears to be some dissatisfaction as to the administration of this money from [2416] public funds. The suggestion is rather accepted that some agreement might be arrived at that the money should be divided amongst all the hospitals in the city of Dublin. As a country Deputy I cannot see why money should be provided from public funds for Dublin hospitals and not for hospitals in the country, that are as much in need of assistance as any hospitals in the city.

Mr. Little: Information on Patrick J. Little  Zoom on Patrick J. Little  The information I got I got from people who seem to be very satisfied about the information they had and what they told me about it. I do not want to say anything which would be injurious to any public service, and I would much prefer if the Minister would, his attention having been drawn to it, make full inquiries into the matter. If he could do that I do not think we would be inclined to press it to a vote.

General Mulcahy: Information on Richard James Mulcahy  Zoom on Richard James Mulcahy  This Vote has been discussed on very many occasions and I have persistently said that my attitude to the distribution of this money is based on this: If we take the amount of money that is proposed to be voted, £12,150— originally it was £15,850—there are a certain number of hospitals whose economy, as I have said before, has been built around the reception of these grants, from a time dating back to 1854. We are told that the value of money has reduced since pre-war days. What the change in value of money has been between 1855 and 1930 I do not know, but there has been a steady increase in the real value of the amount of money to these hospitals. I stated that I am unwilling to interfere with the economy of hospitals that are doing a very considerable amount of public service, particularly to the poorer classes, and which have definitely shown a deficit. For the last few years the finances of these hospitals have been very carefully examined by officers of the Department. Deputies will perhaps remember that last year a reduction was made of £2,600. The grant was reduced from £7,600 to £5,000 in the case of the House of Industry hospitals, [2417] and last year also the grant to Cork Street Fever Hospital was reduced from £2,500 to £2,170. There is a further reduction of £770 this year to £1,400, because by an examination of the accounts the Department has satisfied itself that the deficit is reduced to that particular amount.

With regard to the other hospitals, the Department has satisfied itself that there is a deficit facing them for the coming year that is not less than the amount that was voted here as a grant. I am asked to question this £700 to the Rotunda Lying-in Hospital on certain grounds. I have heard these grounds stated for the first time, as I have heard a charge of favouring one particular set of medicals as against another for the first time. I do not think that I ought to take any cognisance of these statements. I take it that they are from well-wishers of these hospitals and well-wishers of those people who receive benefits from them, and I do certainly suggest if there is anything wrong in the Charter of any of these hospitals or in the general attitude of their Governors to one particular class of individuals or another that there are better ways of approaching the matter than in discussing it on this Vote.

Dr. Tubridy: Information on Dr. Seán Tubridy  Zoom on Dr. Seán Tubridy  Did the Minister say that any charges were made against any medical men?

General Mulcahy: Information on Richard James Mulcahy  Zoom on Richard James Mulcahy  I am saying that I have been asked to consider the withholding of these grants because of certain charges against the hospitals.

Dr. Tubridy: Information on Dr. Seán Tubridy  Zoom on Dr. Seán Tubridy  I thought you said that there were charges made against one set of medical men as against another.

General Mulcahy: Information on Richard James Mulcahy  Zoom on Richard James Mulcahy  No. I do not think it is the proper way of going about rectifying anything. Statements have been made here that the Minister for Local Government should institute an inquiry as to whether in certain hospitals only medical practitioners of one particular religion are employed or that in certain hospitals preference is [2418] given to the product of one particular University rather than another.

Dr. Tubridy: Information on Dr. Seán Tubridy  Zoom on Dr. Seán Tubridy  Do I take it that the Minister says that if the appointment of Master of the Rotunda is confined to one religion he thinks we should pass the Vote here and not object?

General Mulcahy: Information on Richard James Mulcahy  Zoom on Richard James Mulcahy  As far as I understand it, there are Deputies here objecting to this Vote who have not taken the trouble to get to the bottom of it and see whether it is a fact or not.

Dr. Tubridy: Information on Dr. Seán Tubridy  Zoom on Dr. Seán Tubridy  It is well known in medical circles in Dublin.

General Mulcahy: Information on Richard James Mulcahy  Zoom on Richard James Mulcahy  If it is well known in medical circles in Dublin, and if there are well-wishers of the poor who are attended in the Rotunda Hospital, I think there is a better line of approach to the matter than by the kind of discussion we have here to-night.

Mr. Little: Information on Patrick J. Little  Zoom on Patrick J. Little  What does the Minister think the function of a member of this Dáil is? We, as members of this Dáil, are administering public funds, and as responsible members of this Dáil we got certain information. In order to try and be as cautious as possible about the matter, I suggest that the Minister should take the opportunity now of making certain inquiries to see that public funds are properly administered, and not administered on lines of bigotry. Because we take an attitude of caution it is suggested that our information is not correct and that we have not tried to get the proper information. I suggest that even still the Minister ought to give an undertaking that he would inquire into this and see that the public funds are properly expended.

Mr. Flinn: Information on Hugh Victor Flinn  Zoom on Hugh Victor Flinn  May I ask whether any member of this House, as such, is in a position to ascertain definitely, of right, the facts in this matter? It seems the Minister might have machinery for doing it, of right, but I cannot see that any member of this House, as such, has the opportunity, of right, to ascertain the facts.

Vote put.

Aird, William P.
Alton, Ernest Henry.
Beckett, James Walter.
Bennett, George Cecil.
Blythe, Ernest.
Bourke, Séamus A.
Brodrick, Seán.
Byrne, John Joseph.
Carey, Edmund.
Cole, John James.
Collins-O'Driscoll, Mrs. Margt.
Conlon, Martin.
Craig, Sir James.
Crowley, James.
Daly, John.
Davis, Michael.
Doherty, Eugene.
Dolan, James N.
Doyle, Peadar Seán.
Duggan, Edmund John.
Dwyer, James.
Egan, Barry M.
Esmonde, Osmond Thos. Grattan.
Fitzgerald, Desmond.
Fitzgerald-Kenney, James.
Good, John.
Gorey, Denis J.
Haslett, Alexander.
Hassett, John J.
Heffernan, Michael R.
Hennessy, Michael Joseph.
Hennessy, Thomas.
Hennigan, John.
Henry, Mark.
Hogan, Patrick (Galway).
Holohan, Richard.
Kelly, Patrick Michael.
Law, Hugh Alexander.
Leonard, Patrick.
Lynch, Finian.
Mathews, Arthur Patrick.
McDonogh, Martin.
McFadden, Michael Og.
McGilligan, Patrick.
Mongan, Joseph W.
Mulcahy, Richard.
Murphy, James E.
Nally, Martin Michael.
Nolan, John Thomas.
O'Connell, Richard.
O'Connor, Bartholomew.
O'Higgins, Thomas.
O'Leary, Daniel.
O'Mahony, Dermot Gun.
O'Reilly, John J.
O'Sullivan, Gearóid.
O'Sullivan, John Marcus.
Reynolds, Patrick.
Rice, Vincent.
Roddy, Martin.
Sheehy, Timothy (West Cork).
Thrift, William Edward.
Tierney, Michael.
Vaughan, Daniel.
White, Vincent Joseph.
Wolfe, George.
Wolfe, Jasper Travers.

Aiken, Frank.
Allen, Denis.
Anthony, Richard.
Blaney, Neal.
Boland, Patrick.
Bourke, Daniel.
Brady, Seán.
Broderick, Henry.
Buckley, Daniel.
Carty, Frank.
Cassidy, Archie J.
Clancy, Patrick.
Cooney, Eamon.
Corkery, Dan.
Corish, Richard.
Corry, Martin John.
Crowley, Tadhg.
Derrig, Thomas.
Doyle, Edward.
Fahy, Frank.
Flinn, Hugo.
Fogarty, Andrew.
Gorry, Patrick J.
Goulding, John.
Hayes, Seán.
Houlihan, Patrick.
Kent, William R.
Killiea, Mark.
Kilroy, Michael.
Lemass, Seán F.
Little, Patrick John.
Maguire, Ben.
McEllistrim, Thomas.
Moore, Séamus.
O'Kelly, Séan T.
O'Reilly, Matthew.
O'Reilly, Thomas.
Powell, Thomas P.
Ryan, James.
Sexton, Martin.
Sheehy, Timothy (Tipp.).
Tubridy, John.
Walsh, Richard.
Ward, Francis C.

Vote declared carried.

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