Health Services.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Seanad Éireann Debate
Vol. 188 No. 14

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Senator John Ellis: Information on John Ellis Zoom on John Ellis I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Pat The Cope Gallagher, to take this motion on the Adjournment.

I raise the matter of a capital project, which has been proposed by the HSE, and formerly by the North-Western Health Board, entailing the provision of a community care facility and small hospital in Ballinamore, County Leitrim. This was sanctioned in 2002 and was given the go-ahead then.

[1070]On numerous occasions since then I have raised this with the HSE, both locally and nationally. It appears that when I raised it here in September or October with the Minister, Deputy Harney, she pursued the HSE, which the following day phoned officials in the local office in the north west and told them to proceed. Until recently however, they have not received the proper confirmation to allow them to move to the next stage. I hope that tonight the Minister of State will be able to inform us when they will be in a position to move to the next stage.

This community facility is badly needed. At present, there are people occupying beds in general hospitals who could be accommodated in such a facility, if it were provided. I hope the Minister of State can tell me the up to date position and give me a definite date with regard to proceeding on this project.

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Deputy Pat The Cope Gallagher): Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher I thank Senator Ellis for raising this important issue, which he raised last year in the House with the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy [1071]Mary Harney. I am glad to have the opportunity to respond and I apologise on her behalf for being unable to attend here.

This matter provides me with an opportunity to reaffirm the Government’s commitment to developing community-based services at local level. Government policy with regard to older people is to support people to live in dignity and independence in their own homes and communities for as long as possible. Where this is not feasible, the health service supports access to quality long-term residential care where appropriate. This policy approach is renewed and developed in the latest partnership agreement, Towards 2016.

The Government’s objective of continued development of community-based services for older persons is reflected in the funding given to the system in recent times. In the budgets of 2006 and 2007, over €400 million was provided to enhance service developments across the sector, of which just over €190 million was for community-based services over the two years. Arising from budget 2008, a full year package of €22 million has been allocated for new services in the area of older people. This gives a total of over €422 million for new services for older people over the last three years.

As the Senator is aware, the Health Act 2004 provides the Health Service Executive with responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services. As a corporate body, the provision of these services, including progressing community hospitals or primary care centres at local level, is, therefore, an operational matter for the HSE.

The proposed capital development for Ballinamore, which has a total capital requirement of over €7 million, has been approved by the executive. The project is progressing to the next stage, which is the appointment of a design team. It is expected that the team will be in place by the end of April next. I understand from the HSE that, when complete, the development will include the following: Ballinamore community hospital, to include long-stay care services and palliative care services; day care services, to include a social model of care with interaction activities and personal care needs; and a centre to facilitate the provision of multi-disciplinary primary care services, which will ultimately encompass the core multi-disciplinary team of general practitioners, public health nurses, mental health, occupational therapy, social work, chiropody, community welfare, physiotherapy, dietetic and home help services.

The Government strategy, Primary Care — A New Direction, 2001, is the roadmap for the development of primary care services in Ireland over a period of ten to 15 years. The development of such services is an essential component of the [1072]health service reform process. It has been estimated that in a developed primary care system, 90% to 95% of people’s day-to-day health and social care needs can be met in the primary care setting.

The key objective in primary care policy is to develop services in the community that will give people direct access to integrated multi-disciplinary teams such as that proposed for the Ballinamore development. Under the Towards 2016 agreement the Government has committed to the establishment of 300 primary care teams by 2008, 400 by 2009 and 500 by 2011. A review of these targets will be undertaken this year.

Since 2002, the Government has provided significant new funding to enable the primary care strategy to be rolled out, amounting to €52 million. In addition to the additional resources being put in place, the HSE is working on the reorganisation of existing professional resources in the community from a care group model to a primary care team model.

I appreciate that the people in the Ballinamore catchment area may feel that nothing is happening because they do not see anything tangible happening. I want to inform them that the project has been approved by the HSE. The next step is the appointment of a design team. That will happen by the end of April and, hopefully, progress will be made then. As a public representative, I fully appreciate that until such time as the sod is turned, the people of Ballinamore and its catchment area will feel nothing is happening.

I assure them there is movement and the moneys will be provided. The project has been approved and the appointment of the design team is the next stage. We are anxious to ensure that team is in place by the end of April. The new, high-quality facility planned for Ballinamore will substantiate and complement the significant service delivery thresholds already put in place or planned for primary care and services for older people.

Senator John Ellis: Information on John Ellis Zoom on John Ellis If there is no move on this project by the date given — we were promised it would be commenced by certain dates twice previously — I will raise it again in the House and will continue to harass both the HSE and the Minister until the project gets to the building stage.

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