Dáil Éireann - Volume 459 - 05 December, 1995

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Comhairle na nOspidéal.

25. Mr. Clohessy asked the Minister for Health when he plans to appoint the new board of Comhairle na nOspidéal which has been out of office for the past six months in order that posts which have been approved by his Department can be filled; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18177/95]

Mr. Noonan (Limerick East): As I indicated in my reply to Deputy O'Donnell on 8 November 1995 I am in the final stages of considering the nominations made to me and expect to announce very shortly the new composition of Comhairle na nOspidéal.

Miss Quill: What is the explanation for the failure to appoint the new board of Comhairle na nOspidéal for almost six months? Is it a fact that no full-time appointments of any kind can be made, or have been made, in the past six months or can be made until the new board is appointed? Does the Minister accept that all the nominating bodies submitted their nominations to him some time ago? Can he explain why he, his Department or the Government delayed the appointment of this key and essential board for six months?

Mr. Noonan (Limerick East): The Deputy is aware that a politician whom she admired greatly, Mr. Haughey, went 18 months on one occasion as Minister for Health without appointing the board.

[358] Miss Quill: Is the Minister trying to outdo him?

Mr. Noonan (Limerick East): No. I will do better than that.

Dr. Moffatt: Follow in his footsteps.

Mr. Noonan (Limerick East): There is a number of reasons for a delay in appointing the board. I did not have all the nominations from nominating bodies initially and working it out after that is a complicated jigsaw. There are 27 on the board, 14 of whom must be consultants. In line with policy in equality and law reform, 40 per cent must be women. I have an obligation to spread its membership regionally through different health boards and I want to include some of the major hospitals also. By the time one does the shuffling, it is quite an intricate piece of work. Anyone could appoint the first 20 people but when it gets down to the last seven, one must ensure it fits all the criteria and that we get the best possible board which will work together. It takes some time and I would prefer to reflect on it and have it right with the fullest consultations rather than rush my fences. It is not causing any difficulty and is not delaying appointments.

Miss Quill: The Minister says it is quite an intricate piece of work. Does he accept it is not beyond his wit or wisdom to have put this board in place long before now? Is there any truth in the perceived reason that the Minister is delaying the appointments to save money in this financial year by not making essential appointments like, for example, the appointment of an oncologist to Cork?

The Minister has made a major commitment to cancer treatment and women's health and I applaud him for it. Nonetheless, there is no point in making the commitment unless he gives practical effect to appointments which will enable that commitment to take effect on the ground. Cork has been [359] waiting for months for the appointment of an oncologist.

Is part of the explanation for the board not being appointed in the past six months that the Minister is cleverly delaying the appointment of consultants to key areas, like that of oncology in Cork?

Mr. Noonan (Limerick East): No. There is no basis to that. That is an unworthy allegation by Deputy Quill and it is a kind of sí-scéalta na nGael theory. There is no advantage to me, financially or otherwise, in not having a comhairle in place. It is simply that it is complex to get the nominations from the different bodies, to evaluate them and finalise the board but I am nearly there now and I will have it shortly.

Miss Quill: I will tell that to the people who planted the rumour.

Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn: Is there any truth in the rumour that one of the reasons for the delay is that the Minister has resisted strongly the appointment of that eminent political consultant, Deputy Eric Byrne, to the board?

Mr. Noonan (Limerick East): That is not even a rumour.

Mr. Currie: It is a pity he is not here.

Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn: It is.