Tuesday, 19 April 2005
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. McHugh: I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle for allowing me to raise the matter of the provision of funding for the recruitment of staff to enable palliative care beds at Áras Mhuire, Tuam, County Galway, to be opened to receive patients.
I raised this issue in a parliamentary question on 28 October 2004 and the reply I received stated: “This matter is under consideration in the context of the Estimates and in the light of other requests for resources from the Western Health Board.” I again raised the matter on 3 March 2005. Due to the changeover to the Health Service Executive, I received the standard reply stating: “The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive ..... my Department has asked the chief officer of the executive’s western area to reply directly to the Deputy.” I received a reply from the regional manager of the Health Service Executive, dated 3 March 2005, informing me that an addendum to the service plan for 2005 was submitted to the executive regarding the palliative care suite at Áras Mhuire in Tuam, County Galway. However, I have heard nothing since.
It is unacceptable that the accommodation is ready for occupation but has no staff to man it. Patients in the north Galway area are deprived of essential palliative care while the question of providing funding for staff is passed from Billy to Jack. Rubbishy answers are being given to cover up inaction on this issue. The palliative care unit has not been available to the people of the region for the past four years. Money has been expended on providing the building but now staff are needed to run it. This is simply the provision of an additional three nurses, at an outlay of €130,000, a paltry sum, a miserable amount of money which would provide a service to make life bearable for ill people.
Is it too much to expect some compassion and understanding? Is it too much to expect that people in power understand the needs for palliative care for the terminally ill? I hope the reply from the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, Deputy Seán Power, is not more waffle. If it is more waffle provided for him by his officials, it will be of no use in solving this problem. I ask the Minister of State to take a personal interest in this matter and to contact the Health Service Executive to sanction the money needed to end this scandal.
Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. S. Power): The report of the national advisory committee on palliative care is seen as the blueprint for the future development of such services. At its launch, a commitment was given to implement the recommendations of the report within a five to seven year timeframe and within the context of the national health strategy. Since October 2001, an additional €16.384 million has been invested in palliative care services, including €2 million in additional funding which has been made available specifically for palliative care in 2005. This funding is used to improve palliative care services in line with the recommendations of the national advisory committee report.
The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for palliative support beds at Áras Mhuire, Tuam, County Galway.
The Health Service Executive’s western area confirmed that an addendum to the service plan for 2005 has been submitted to the executive regarding the palliative care suite at Áras Mhuire community nursing unit in Tuam, County Galway. The structural work on this unit is complete and it is ready to be occupied. It 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, staffing resources and revenue funding, are required. The Health Service Executive’s western area has sought approval for the additional resources required to open the unit. I will take on board what Deputy McHugh has said. I will undertake to monitor the situation and report back to him in the near future. I hope we will not have too long to wait for progress to be made on the matter.
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