Thursday, 21 November 2002
Seanad Eireann Debate
Mr. Leyden: I thank the Cathaoirleach for allowing this matter on the Adjournment and welcome the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, Deputy Brian Lenihan, who has a special responsibility for children.
I raise the issue of the condition of St. Coman's ward in Roscommon county hospital. This is a 30 bed medical ward which is in a deplorable condition and requires major investment urgently for its refurbishment. In 1998 the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Cowen, then Minister for Health and Children, gave commitments to the hospital and the Western Health Board which have been honoured. The Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Martin, reiterated those commitments in 2001.
As chairman of the Western Health Board, I had the pleasure of signing a contract for a new accident and emergency department on 16 May 2002 at a cost of over €5 million. On 27 June I signed a contract worth €1.1 million for refurbished theatres. We have provided new screening rooms and other facilities at Roscommon County Hospital which will guarantee its continuity and provide an excellent service for the people of Roscommon and surrounding areas.
The position is that St. Coman's Ward is in a state of disrepair. It is not up to agreed standards for hospital care. The staff work under extremely difficult conditions to provide facilities and services for the patients who frequent this medical ward. It would be in keeping with the upgrading of the hospital that funds would be provided to allow the €500,000 contract, submitted in June this year, for major refurbishment of the ward to proceed. This work would continue in conjunction with the work under way on the new accident and emergency unit and the theatres.
I call on the Minister and the Minister of State to ask the Department to give the Western Health Board the authority to proceed to sign the contract to allow this project proceed. It is vital the work goes ahead. If this is not agreed, the Health and Safety Authority will have to take action with regard to the conditions prevailing in the ward. As a last resort, it will have to be closed down pending the allocation of funds from the Department which I urge to provide the necessary approval to proceed with the contract.
I thank the Minister, the Taoiseach and the Government for their support and commitment to the development of Roscommon County Hospital as an acute general hospital. We are fortunate that it now has two surgeons, two anaesthetists, two radiologists and excellent facilities. We now require St. Coman's Ward to be upgraded to ensure the continuity of the hospital as an acute general hospital. I call on the Department to provide the necessary funding for the contract.
Mr. B. Lenihan: I am dealing with this matter on behalf of my colleague the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Martin, who is fully aware and appreciative of the services Roscommon County Hospital provides for the population in its catchment area. Throughout the years the hospital has served the community well in areas such as surgery, medicine, geriatric assessment and psychiatry, as well as providing casualty and outpatient services. Its budget has increased to almost €13 million this year which is more than a doubling of the allocation since 1997. This has enabled it to provide a high level of service.
The hospital has benefited from a number of developments during the 1990s and into the new century. In December 1991 St. Teresa's Ward was opened, providing 16 additional medical beds. Services were expanded with the appointment of a consultant physician with an interest in the elderly, who took up duty in 1993. A new acute psychiatric unit was opened in February 1992. In 1994, 24 rehabilitation beds with linkages to the hospital were commissioned at the Sacred Heart Home in Roscommon. In 1997 educational, seminar and conference facilities for all Roscommon health services were provided with the refurbishment and renovation of the training centre at Roscommon County Hospital.
In December 1998 new surgical facilities at the hospital were opened at a capital cost of €760,000. This provided for five additional day beds, hospice accommodation, renovation of the surgical ward and an increase in single room accommodation. A second consultant surgeon took up duty at the hospital at the beginning of 1999. In May 2000 approval was given to upgrade the hospital's drainage system at a capital cost of €246,000. In May 2001 approval was given for the refurbishment of the doctors' residences at a capital cost of €57,138.
In June 2001 when the Minister visited the hospital he provided a sum of €1.65 million to carry out additional capital works, including replacing the screening room equipment, refurbishment of the theatre, refurbishment of St. Coman's Ward and upgrading the supplies warehouse. The screening room equipment has been replaced and the theatre department is being upgraded. In April this year the Minister issued approval to accept the tender for the development of a new accident and emergency department, a nine bed admissions unit, a medical records department, radiology film storage, staff changing facilities and an ultrasound room at an estimated capital cost of over €7.8 million. Construction is under way with an estimated completion date of late 2003.
These developments have facilitated the hospital in developing the range and quality of the services it provides. In particular, the development of surgical services has enabled the hospital to increase its day surgery work. The emphasis in acute hospital care is on the overall volume of activity delivered, be it on an in-patient, day-case or out-patient basis. Modern advances in medicine and technology now mean that previously complicated procedures which would have necessitated a lengthy stay in hospital can be done much more simply and very often without the need for admission on an in-patient basis.
With regard to the specific issue raised by the Deputy, the Minister is aware that St. Coman's Ward is in need of upgrading. Plans have been agreed with the Western Health Board design team, local management and the technical services department. However, I understand the board is unable to provide the funding for this project from within the funding of €1.65 million announced by the Minister last year. The funding provided has been exhausted in purchasing new X-ray equipment and refurbishing the operating theatre. The question of the refurbishment of St Coman's Ward will be considered by the board in conjunction with the Department having regard to the funding available and priority attached to the developments by the board. The Department will be in touch with it shortly regarding the issue.
Mr. Leyden: I thank the Minister of State. I hope the Department will be in touch with the Western Health Board and that the issue can be resolved. I know the Department has committed to providing funding and I am confident this essential work will proceed.
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