Dáil Éireann - Volume 491 - 28 May, 1998

Adjournment Debate. - Naas Hospital Development.

Mr. Durkan: I thank the Chair for giving me the opportunity to raise this matter and the Minister of State for coming into the House to reply. The Irish Hospital Consultants Association has expressed alarm at conditions in Naas Hospital which continue to deteriorate. As the Minister of State is aware, the Naas Hospital development programme was approved more than one year ago. In the intervening period conditions in the hospital have worsened considerably. The problem of overcrowding is now much more serious. The lack of facilities is accentuated by the demands imposed by an increasing population in its catchment area.

I do not want to be political but I remind the Minister of State's senior colleague that this time last year he paid a much publicised visit to Naas Hospital when he expressed deep concern at conditions in the hospital. He tore out his hair, beat his breast and said there would be no delay in the provision of the extra facilities required. This should be done without further delay.

[1034] I could engage in a similar stunt but I have no wish to do so as this is not an issue on which one should engage in political acrobatics. As a matter of extreme urgency officials of the Department and the health board should travel to Naas and acknowledge the situation is serious. Patients are being cared for in wards which were not built for that purpose, many have to wait for long periods in corridors and waiting areas before being treated. The staff are under extreme pressure. This is not in the best interests of patient care or the reputation of the hospital. The gesticulations should stop. Action should be taken immediately.

I have raised this matter on a number of occasions in the past six to eight months. I hope I will not have to raise it again. The time for exploring the issue here has long since past. It is time for the Minister to make his annual visit to Naas Hospital.

Dr. Moffatt: I thank Deputy Durkan for raising this matter on the Adjournment. I am glad he raised it and I am happy to report progress on our plans for a major development of Naas Hospital.

It is probably well known by now that a comprehensive development brief for Naas Hospital was formally approved by my Department last June. Following that approval the Eastern Health Board proceeded as rapidly as possible with the preparation of a revised development control plan for the whole hospital development and, in particular, the preparation of a detailed development option for phase two of the project within the approved cost limits.

The board appointed a design team for the project and it has been working flat out, in consultation with the board's project team, to ensure that planning of phase two continues with all possible speed. When it is completed, phase two will upgrade many areas of the hospital to a modern standard. These will include the various hot spots which have been the subject of ongoing criticism. For example, there will be a new accident and emergency department, designed to modern standards and built to take account of the growing volume of patients arriving at the hospital. Similarly, the out-patients department will be overhauled and appropriate facilities will be provided which will be patient friendly and of a high quality. Various other patient areas, including medical, surgical and geriatric wards, will be provided in spacious and attractive accommodation, replacing the cluttered and overcrowded conditions which obtain due to lack of space in the existing building. The hospital's day care services, operating department, intensive care unit and coronary care unit are now at an advanced stage of design.

The Eastern Health Board continues to progress this major building project as quickly as it can. I understand the planning application was lodged with the local planning authority at the beginning of this month. The Deputy called for [1035] immediate action on the matter and such action is being taken on a daily basis and will continue to be taken until the project has been completed. However, hospitals are not built overnight.

The health board and the hospital management have worked in close consultation with hospital staff. I compliment all involved not only on their patience and forbearance in what we all know to be a difficult situation but also on the enthusiastic and constructive manner in which they have contributed to the planning and design of the new facility. I am happy to report genuine progress at Naas. Approval has been given to proceed to stage three of the planning process. That allows the design team to bring the project to sketch design stage and that process is proceeding rapidly.

The staff, management and patients at Naas Hospital have had to endure difficult conditions. However, I echo the recent statement by the manager of the hospital that Naas Hospital is a very good news story in that we are embarking on a major £30 million development which will totally revolutionise the present service. I look forward to reporting further progress as this major project develops during the coming months.