Dáil Éireann - Volume 517 - 05 April, 2000
Irish Haemophilia Society. - Hospital Equipment.
Mrs. T. Ahearn Mrs. T. Ahearn
Mrs. T. Ahearn: I am delighted that the Minister is present to hear my plea on behalf of St. Joseph's Hospital, Clonmel which serves the people of County Tipperary, which has a population of more than 100,000. My plea is a simple one. I am asking the Minister to help us acquire a CAT scanner. In the newspapers this morning I read that the Minister for Finance will have to revise his budget day tax revenue forecast by more than £500 million due to the fact that the economy is progressing at an alarming rate.
There is no CAT scanner in south Tipperary. As a result, seriously ill patients have to be ferried by ambulance to other centres in Waterford, Cork and Dublin. Because of the overloading of services in those centres, there is a waiting list. The medical profession is very concerned at the lack of such a facility in the locality. As a result people's lives are often put at risk.
The Minister will be pleased to learn that resulting from the tremendous interest expressed by medical staff in St. Joseph's and other hospitals in south Tipperary and with the support of local people, a huge fundraising campaign has commenced. We are determined to acquire this important resource. Last Sunday in my local hall we handed over £800 raised by way of a whist drive. To what I am sure will be an outstandingly successful campaign, the Minister can provide the impetus it needs by giving a commitment to provide a certain amount of money towards the cost of a CAT scanner. We are working hard on behalf of those who are prepared to do something for themselves. The campaign has been launched in all the major towns in south Tipperary for which it has been declared the millennium project. The question that is most often asked is, “What about all the money the Minister for Finance has at his disposal and how will the Department of Health and Children co-operate with us?”
My plea is a passionate and fair one. I ask the Minister to join our efforts to get this necessary facility for the people of the Tipperary area. I ask the Minister to give a commitment that he will back us and provide a certain amount of finance for this facility. This would give tremendous impetus and encouragement to the people who are prepared to work until the necessary funding  is secured. It would also give the Minister a good image. Much is expected of him because, unfortunately, over the past 20 years Tipperary has been in the wilderness in relation to health services. There was little investment, although the former Minister for Health, Deputy Noonan, made a start by providing almost £13 million for improvements in hospital services.
We are determined to ensure the hospital has the facilities to enhance patient care and ensure that people's lives are not put at risk. As I said, we are prepared to co-operate with the Minister. Everybody is prepared to work at every fundraising activity that can be imagined. Our agenda in south Tipperary is to get the CAT scan for St. Joseph's Hospital. The Minister could give us the best impetus possible by committing himself to supporting this campaign. My request is reasonable. We want to join the Minister in partnership and ensure enhanced health services for the people who badly need this resource.
I congratulate the medical staff who were prepared to initiate this campaign. They could continue working with the existing facilities but they are prepared to give up their free time and use their resources and energy, in conjunction with a hardworking local committee, to raise funds for a CAT scan for St. Joseph's. I hope the Minister will give them the big push they deserve.
Mr. Martin Mr. Martin
Mr. Martin: I am pleased to have the opportunity afforded to me by Deputy Theresa Ahearn to address the House on the issue of the use of a CAT scan at St. Joseph's Hospital, Clonmel.
The provision of services at St. Joseph's Hospital is a matter for the South Eastern Health Board in the first instance. As the Deputy is aware, a major phase one capital development is under planning at the hospital to provide for the transfer of surgical services from Our Lady's Hospital, Cashel, in line with the south Tipperary hospital agreement. In view of the projected overall increase in activity at St. Joseph's that this major development will entail, the health board has also developed separate plans for the enhancement of the existing radiological capacity at the hospital in order to meet anticipated increased demand. To this end, the board has recently developed and equipped a second radiology room at the hospital at a capital cost of £113,000. Additional staff, including a radiographer, are being recruited to operate this service.
In addition, in March this year, as part of the ongoing development of radiology services at the hospital, I approved a capital grant of £317,000 for the purchase of a new fluoroscopy imaging system at Clonmel. With these developments, St. Joseph's Hospital will have state  of the art radiological and ultrasound equipment available to support clinical needs. I am confident that these measures will enable the radiology service at the hospital to continue to respond to needs as the overall development of services as St. Joseph's Hospital proceeds over the coming years.
I am aware that the South Eastern Health Board has also been giving consideration to its overall CT scanning needs, to build on the service currently available at Waterford Regional Hospital. In this regard, it has identified the provision of new CT services at Wexford General Hospital and St. Luke's Hospital, Kilkenny, as the first priorities and plans are in train to commission these new services this year, facilitated by local fundraising efforts and revenue support from my Department.
Any further development of the region's overall radiological capacity would have to be considered by the board in the first instance in the context of its overall competing development priorities and available funding. In this regard, I understand from the board that it is prepared to consider a business case for the provision of a CT service at Clonmel on the basis of clinical need and economic viability. It is satisfied, however, that the current arrangements for the provision of this service are adequately meeting patient needs and there is no question of patients being put at risk. In that context, it is important for the Deputy to ensure that the health board is on side and giving this matter priority.
Mrs. T. Ahearn Mrs. T. Ahearn
Mrs. T. Ahearn: It is on side.
Mr. Martin Mr. Martin
Mr. Martin: That has not come across yet. It has other developments in the region and this also needs to be prioritised. The Department takes on board the development plans which the health boards submit.
In terms of the overall development of services at St. Joseph's Hospital, Clonmel, tenders are now being considered for the major phase one development with a view to enabling work to commence in the middle of this year at a cost of approximately £13 million at January 1997 prices. This landmark development in the history of the health services in south Tipperary will involve the provision of a new accident and emergency department, ward accommodation, operating theatres, ICU, a day care unit, a central sterile supplies department, a physical medicine department, an education centre and consulting rooms.
The Deputy will agree that this development will represent a hugely significant advance in the quality of services that will be available to south Tipperary hospital patients. The development of services in the area has been impeded in the past by disagreement on the preferred organisational  arrangements. The final settlement of that issue, through the signing of the south Tipperary hospital agreement in 1996, has paved the way for this development and concurrent developments at Our Lady's Hospital, Cashel, and in Tipperary town.
The overall objective is to ensure that the services available to the people of south Tipperary are responsive to their needs. I trust that the developments in planning and under way there will be seen as tangible evidence of my commitment in that regard.
Mrs. T. Ahearn Mrs. T. Ahearn
Mrs. T. Ahearn: We will keep fundraising.
Dáil Éireann 517 Irish Haemophilia Society. Hospital Equipment.