Wednesday, 13 April 2005
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. Carty: I thank the Ceann Comhairle for allowing me to raise this important issue. The Sacred Heart Hospital in Castlebar is a home for the elderly in that it provides a combination of rehabilitation and continuing care for elderly people in the county. It has five units in which it cares for 180 patients.
St. Patrick’s unit is partially closed, resulting in the loss of 12 beds to the system. This is a serious shortage, especially given the crisis at the accident and emergency unit at Mayo General Hospital, Castlebar. If the 12 beds were made available, it would alleviate pressure on the accident and emergency unit by moving patients on. The unit is partially closed because of structural damage owing to bad foundations. The outer wall is severely cracked and patients cannot be admitted because of health and safety requirements.
The Health Service Executive has made several proposals to the Department of Health and Children to have the problem remedied, but without success. The cost of the renovation to the unit and other patient areas is estimated at €1.5 million. The Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, Deputy Tim O’Malley, and I have visited the unit and we both saw at first hand the condition of the wall and the cracks thereon. If the problem is not remedied in the near future, it will cost much more than €1.5 million because part of the outer wall will collapse.
I call on the Minister to take this issue seriously and make funds available to repair the unit so it can be made available to patients, as was originally intended. The loss of beds in the unit cannot be permitted to continue given that there is now such a demand for beds for the elderly. It does not stand up that a unit should be closed because of a structural fault not being repaired.
It is frustrating for the doctors, nurses and other staff to have the facility and yet not be able to use it because the Department will not make the funding available to repair it. I compliment the doctors, nurses and staff of the hospital on the high level of care they give to their patients and which they have given to them over many years. They are to be congratulated. I appeal to the Minister of State to make the necessary funds available.
Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. B. Lenihan): I thank Deputy Carty for raising this matter and join him in paying tribute to the staff at the Sacred Heart Hospital, Castlebar. I am aware of the Deputy’s deep concern over this issue which he has raised with me in the past.
The Government has made services for older people a priority and is fully committed to the development of a comprehensive health service capable of responding quickly, fully and effectively to the health service needs of older persons. In recent years, health and social services for older people have improved, both in hospitals and in the community. Since its entry into office, the Government has substantially increased the level of funding, both capital and revenue, in respect of services for older persons. Between 1997 and 2004, the total additional funding allocated was approximately €287 million and additional revenue funding of €15.228 million was announced for this year. This serves to demonstrate the Government’s ongoing commitment to improving services for the older population.
Significant capital funding for the health sector has been provided since the commencement of the national development plan in the millennium year. Total expenditure for the years 2000 to 2003 was approximately €1.7 billion.
Considerable progress has been made in addressing the historical deficits in health infrastructure and improving the standards of facilities required for quality modern patient care. The national development plan has provided considerable capital funding to services for older people. On a national basis, this will enable a comprehensive infrastructure of community nursing units and day care facilities to be put in place as well as the refurbishment of existing extended-care facilities and the replacement of old, outdated accommodation. The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive must 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 the Sacred Heart Hospital, Castlebar.
The HSE has advised that the 12 beds in St. Patrick’s unit are not in use due to subsidence and that extensive work will be required to bring the unit up to the standard necessary for patient care. As responsibility for the development of services now rests with the HSE, any decisions on this issue will be a matter for the HSE, having regard to the western area’s overall capital funding priorities in the context of the HSE’s capital plan for 2005.
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