Dáil Éireann - Volume 535 - 03 May, 2001
Written Answers - Hospital Waiting Lists.
Mr. N. Ahern Mr. N. Ahern
120. Mr. N. Ahern asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of persons in accident and emergency departments awaiting beds at a representative number of major Dublin and provincial hospitals (details supplied) at 8 a.m. each day; and the action he can take to divert provincial patients entering Dublin hospitals for non-national speciality procedures to take pressure off Dublin hospitals. [12703/01]
Mr. Martin Mr. Martin
Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Martin): The information requested by the Deputy regarding accident and emergency departments outside the eastern region is not routinely collected by  my Department. I have, therefore, asked the chief executive officers of the health boards concerned to compile the information for their areas and to forward it directly to the Deputy. In relation to the eastern region the average number of people waiting over six hours for a bed for the week ending 15 April 2001, the most recent week for which figures have been supplied to my Department, was as follows:
My Department does not receive information from the authority on the number awaiting a bed at 8 a.m. each day. However, I have asked the regional chief executive of the authority to have the information compiled and forwarded to the Deputy.
The need for patient treatment is, in the first instance, determined by medical assessment by the clinician initiating the hospital referral, usually the patient's general practitioner. The general practitioner determines the point of referral for the patient based on his or her knowledge of availability of service, regionally or in Dublin, which will best meet his or her patient's medical need.
It is reasonable that Dublin hospitals should continue to provide non-national speciality procedures to some patients living outside the eastern region until such time as this Government's current policy of addressing geographic imbalances in acute hospital service provision is complete. Evidence of the implementation of this policy can be found in the major capital developments being funded under the national development plan at Limerick, Galway, Castlebar, Naas, Clonmel and Portiuncula hospitals, to mention but some.
Equity of access geographically is one of the key principles underpinning health policy and the Government is committed to ensuring that patients have access to services in close proximity to their homes.
The Deputy will also be aware that I initiated a national review of bed capacity in both the acute and non-acute settings, on foot of the commitment by Government in the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness. The bed review, which is at a advanced stage, is being conducted by my Department in conjunction with the Department of Finance and in consultation with the social partners.
 The review involves the development of a longer term investment strategy for the acute and non-acute sectors and is specifically examining the need for acute beds on a national basis. The review will be completed shortly and the findings will be brought to Government.
Dáil Éireann 535 Written Answers Hospital Waiting Lists.