Dáil Éireann - Volume 586 - 26 May, 2004
Written Answers - Hospital Services.
Mr. M. Higgins Mr. M. Higgins
40. Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Health and Children if his attention has been drawn to the serious concern expressed by medical and nursing staff at the decision to transfer after hours consultant surgical cover from the Louth County Hospital at Dundalk to our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda; if his approval was sought for the move; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15581/04]
Mr. Martin Mr. Martin
 Mr. Martin:Responsibility for the provision of services at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, and Louth County Hospital, Dundalk, rests with the North Eastern Health Board. My Department has been advised by the board that the proposed surgical services within the Louth/Meath hospital group are being re-organised with effect from 1 July 2004. A six person consultant surgical department will be created to provide services across both the Drogheda and Dundalk hospital sites.
I have been informed by North Eastern Health Board that the following arrangements will obtain under the new proposals: hospital to remain on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week; theatre and anaesthetic staff remain on call for each site 24 hours a day, seven days a week; no difference between Dundalk and Drogheda patient care; three new consultants have been offered appointments to bring total to six; all six surgeons with sub-specialities will attend Louth County Hospital; two new theatres being designed for Louth County Hospital; 1:6 rota by consultants from home covering both sites; increased elective activity in Louth County Hospital will reduce waiting lists on both sites; majority of Louth County Hospital surgical admission out of hours will be dealt with at Louth County Hospital; 12 NCHDs offered appointments to cross sites; full accreditation in surgery for both sites.
The board has advised that there are at present two consultant surgeons at Dundalk and four at Drogheda. Under the new arrangements, all six consultant surgeons will provide services across both sites. Emergency on-call cover for the joint department will be provided by a consultant surgeon with 24 hour on-call NCHD support. My Department has been further advised by the board that the new arrangements will lead to an increase in the number of patients undergoing surgery at Louth County Hospital. To facilitate this increased surgical activity, my Department recently approved the appointment of a design team to advance proposals to provide two modular theatres, with supporting accommodation, at Louth County Hospital at an estimated capital cost in excess of €3 million.
The re-organisation of surgical services as announced by the board is designed, inter alia, to facilitate a more appropriate training system in that junior doctors will rotate between the two hospitals during their employment, thus ensuring exposure to many different clinical experiences. I understand that the new proposed service arrangements for the joint surgical department at Drogheda and Dundalk are supported by the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and Comhairle na nOspidéal.
My Department has been advised by the North Eastern Health Board that there are no plans to downgrade Louth County Hospital and that the hospital is guaranteed an active role in the delivery of acute hospital services within the Louth/Meath hospital group. The health board is  confident that the proposed change in service delivery will facilitate the provision of high quality patient care. There are some outstanding issues which are the subject of discussion between the North Eastern Health Board and the stakeholders at each hospital.
I also wish to advise of the following developments at Louth County Hospital in recent years. In 2002, Louth County Hospital received funding for the provision of an additional 14 beds under the national bed capacity initiative. The full year revenue cost of these beds is €1.436 million and they were commissioned in December 2002. A new post of consultant physician with a special interest in endocrinology commenced on 1 April 2004 to support these beds. In addition, three new posts in emergency medicine were approved for the NEHB by the Department in December 2002. One of these posts has sessional commitments to Dundalk. It will be filled on a permanent basis in June 2004.
The permanent filling of two consultant posts in surgery is progressing and is now with the Local Appointments Commission for processing. The Department sanctioned the purchase of 6.85 acres of land at Louth County Hospital in December 2003 at a cost of €2.6 million. On 21 April 2004, the Department approved the appointment of a design team to prepare an outline development control plan for the hospital. On 13 May 2004, the Department approved the appointment of a design team to advance the provision of two modular theatres with supporting accommodation at Louth County Hospital. The estimated capital cost will be in excess of €3 million.
Dáil Éireann 586 Written Answers Hospital Services.