Seanad Éireann - Volume 184 - 11 October, 2006
Adjournment Matters. - Hospital Services.
Mr. Dooley Mr. Dooley
Mr. Dooley: I wish to share my time with Senator Daly.
Mr. Moylan Mr. Moylan
Mr. Moylan: Is that agreed? Agreed.
Mr. Dooley Mr. Dooley
Mr. Dooley: I welcome the Minister of State to the House and thank him for coming to discuss this important matter. He is familiar with this issue and I am happy he is here, as part of the Clare delegation, to discuss this matter.
As the Minister of State is aware, the Mid-Western Hospitals Development Trust has set aside moneys to purchase a CAT scanner for Ennis General Hospital. The hospital management has prepared plans to accommodate this equipment and has submitted a number of proposals to the Department of Health and Children and the HSE to provide funding for the staffing and operation of the equipment. To date, the project has not been given the go ahead, despite the urgent need for the deployment of this equipment at the hospital. Similar equipment is available in some smaller hospitals throughout the country although they do not carry out the same acute surgical procedures as Ennis General Hospital.
The absence of a CAT scanner has a two-fold negative effect. First, only very urgent cases at Ennis hospital are considered for CAT scanning and these patients must be transferred to Limerick by ambulance and in some cases be accompanied by a consultant anaesthetist. This is an outrageous situation. Consultant anaesthetists are an expensive resource and are not being used to best effect when sent in ambulances from Ennis to Limerick when they would be better employed at Ennis General Hospital. It is estimated that 3,000 scans per annum are required at Ennis hospital. However, due to lack of facilities only approximately 1,000 patients receive a scan by transferring to Limerick. This is a poor service for the patient population of our county and should be addressed without delay. It is not good patient care.
Second, the need to transfer patients to Limerick delays the treatment of patients and affects their prognosis. It also results in a delay in patients being discharged from hospital resulting in their retention for longer than necessary. As the Minister of State is aware, Ennis General Hospital is an 88-bed hospital that operates on an annual patient activity level of 117%. Patient numbers range from somewhere between 100 to 130. This has been achieved through good management, not just of the management staff but also of the consultants and the nursing staff through the tremendous work they do. The hospital has scored well in recent analyses on keeping patients off trolleys, in particular through the work in the accident and emergency unit of developing an admission lounge.
I am sure the Minister of State shares my view that speedy access to CAT scanning would allow for better patient care and speedier discharge of patients thereby leading to best practice which is the target of the Minister for Health and Children. I appeal through the Minister of State, who is working closely with the Department to achieve this, to encourage the Minister to help to move this along.
Mr. Daly Mr. Daly
Mr. Daly: I am glad to support Senator Dooley on this issue and I know the Minister of State is equally concerned to see the project expedited. My concern is that while funding has been earmarked for the project for almost ten months, it has not yet been spent despite the fact we are almost into another budget. I hope the Minister of State will communicate with the Minister for Finance to ensure the project is speeded up without further delay. If it is delayed further, it is likely the consultants will threaten to discontinue serious examinations and surgery in the hospital which could create further problems. There have already been problems with regard to the delays in the development of the hospital.
It is not necessary for me to underline for the Minister of State the fact that substantial funding is available for the project from the local trust fund. The surgeon, Dr. Burns has been very vocal in recent meetings with us and has made the commitment that local funding is available. The cost of the machine is available locally and all the HSE is required to do is provide staffing and construction work such as the installation of the CAT scan machine. I emphasise the necessity to expedite this project in view of the fact that the finance was provided ten months ago. With the musical chairs currently taking place in the HSE, it appears that nobody is making decisions. I urge the Minister of State to put some pressure on the HSE to act on this.
Mr. Killeen Mr. Killeen
Mr. Killeen: I thank Senators Dooley and Daly for raising this important matter. I am taking the Adjournment on behalf of my colleague, the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney.
Ennis General Hospital was the subject on the Adjournment of the Seanad in July when the position with regard to the development of the hospital was outlined to the House. As the House is aware, the provision of services at Ennis General Hospital is the responsibility of the Health Service Executive. The Minister approved the Health Service Executive capital plan for 2006 earlier this year. The plan provides for €555.5 million spending on approximately 400 individual projects.
The provision of a new CAT scanner at Ennis General Hospital is included in the major development at the hospital which is currently at design stage. The development of the hospital at Ennis will be carried out on a phased basis. A project team was set up to identify priority developments at the hospital so that the long-term requirements of the county can be addressed. The priority areas for development in phase 1A include upgrade of wards; the accident and emergency department; the radiology department, including a CAT scanner; the outpatients department; the intensive care unit; the concourse; and general infrastructure upgrade. The priority developments identified will cost in excess of €30 million to design, build and equip.
It is a Department of Finance requirement that when a project exceeds €30 million, a cost benefit analysis must be undertaken before the proposed development can proceed. This cost benefit analysis is currently being conducted by the Health Service Executive.
Mr. Dooley Mr. Dooley
Mr. Dooley: I thank the Minister of State for the information he has outlined. Will he take back to the Minister a report of the considerable frustration of not just patients but also consultants who find it extremely difficult to operate in the current facility without the availability of a CAT scanner, notwithstanding the fact the moneys are available to provide it? It is not acceptable for the HSE to continue to suggest it should be part of the future development. It could be provided now and I have no doubt the Minister of State will use his good offices to get the Department to meet this important requirement.
Seanad Éireann 184 Adjournment Matters. Hospital Services.