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 Header Item Community Nursing Homes (Continued)
 Header Item National Lottery Bill 2012: Second Stage (Resumed)

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 791 No. 1

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  6 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Kathleen Lynch: Information on Kathleen Lynch Zoom on Kathleen Lynch] In addition, a detailed briefing note and associated documentation is being finalised at present in preparation for an engagement with the relevant trade unions in line with the requirements under the public sector agreement. The engagement with the unions, which must be completed before proceeding to tender stage, will commence shortly. Once the tender process commences, the HSE anticipates that a tender should be awarded within three months. The Inchicore building has been used by HSE services until recently and these services have been relocated in preparation for its opening as a community nursing home. I know this will be welcomed by the Deputy.

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh I do not know who gave the Minister of State the figures on the costs associated with the nursing home. There were construction costs, site costs, site development costs and equipment costs of €8.6 million, €1.8 million, €1.4 million and €0.6 million, respectively, amounting to €12.4 million, not including whatever costs have arisen subsequently during the two years in which it has been sitting idle.

This unit was not originally meant to be a replacement for St. Brigid's Hospital nor was it intended to be a replacement for the 50 beds located in Brú Caoimhghín. This unit was meant to provide an additional 50 beds into the system but now it appears as though it will result in the addition of 50 beds to the private system-----

Deputy Kathleen Lynch: Information on Kathleen Lynch Zoom on Kathleen Lynch No.

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh -----because the Minister of State has suggested it be run under a public private partnership arrangement. Would it not be more logical to grant the facility to St. James's Hospital, if the HSE no longer wishes to have anything to do with it, and allow that public hospital to run it to service its needs? I have to hand figures indicating that in October 2012, St. James's Hospital had more than 50 patients awaiting discharge and placement in long-term care beds and I do not believe the situation has improved greatly subsequently. These patients obviously would take up all the beds contained in this unit. Moreover, as it is located one mile down the road, were any issues to arise with those patients, they could be transferred quickly back to St. James's Hospital. In addition, more than 20 patients in Tallaght hospital were awaiting precisely the same placement in long-term care beds. All such long-term care beds are being facilitated in the private sector and this constitutes the privatisation of the health service. I appeal to the Minister of State, as a Labour Party Minister in particular, to oppose any privatisation, whether through public private partnerships or by way of subsidising private nursing homes in such a fashion. I appeal to her to open this facility as a public-run unit available to members of the public. It is illogical for it to sit there. While it is welcome that the Minister of State is contemplating action, I note the action is for it to be run not as a public facility but as a private facility paid for by the public.

Deputy Kathleen Lynch: Information on Kathleen Lynch Zoom on Kathleen Lynch I recall that the last time I answered a question on this issue - for Deputy Catherine Byrne - the issue of having St. James's Hospital take it over as a sort of step-down facility arose. While I am open to correction, my recollection is that the hospital's licence to operate does not allow it to operate a facility off-site or off-campus.

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh For the information of the Minister of State, it had one landing of beds in Brú Caoimhghín.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Paudie Coffey): Information on Paudie Coffey Zoom on Paudie Coffey We will have the Minister of State respond.

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh The Minister of State was not informed on this point.

Deputy Kathleen Lynch: Information on Kathleen Lynch Zoom on Kathleen Lynch I am fully informed but anyway-----

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Not on this point.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Paudie Coffey): Information on Paudie Coffey Zoom on Paudie Coffey Deputy, we will have the Minister of State without interruption please. The Deputy had his opportunity.

Deputy Kathleen Lynch: Information on Kathleen Lynch Zoom on Kathleen Lynch It was because we investigated that issue.

This will not be a private community nursing unit. It will operate in the same manner as the unit in Ballincollig, County Cork. Deputy McLellan, who is sitting behind Deputy Ó Snodaigh, is aware that it operates very well and it is availed of by people from the public list. It is run on behalf of the State and is run highly effectively. If this unit could be opened and be of benefit to the community and to those who are in acute hospitals and clearly do not wish to be there but do not have an option, that would be a good day's work. I encourage the HSE to get on and do the job and to make sure space is available for people who could benefit from such a unit.

National Lottery Bill 2012: Second Stage (Resumed)

  Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

Acting Chairman (Deputy Paudie Coffey): Information on Paudie Coffey Zoom on Paudie Coffey Deputy McLellan is in possession and 28 minutes remain in the slot.

Deputy Sandra McLellan: Information on Sandra McLellan Zoom on Sandra McLellan When setting out the 1986 legislation, Ministers of the day spoke of the need for public trust and confidence in the operation of a State lottery and they were absolutely correct in this assertion. The fact that An Post has held the national lottery licence over the past 25 years has in itself instilled trust in the lottery and an affinity with the brand. Understandably, there is concern about the new licence holder and a question as to whether the public interest will be of concern to the new operator and whether the integrity of the lottery will be upheld. The response to this question is not straightforward. Moreover, failure to engage with beneficiaries of national lottery funding before and after the introduction of this legislation has only added to this concern. The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Howlin, seeks to change significantly the national lottery business model, making it more commercially attractive, as he perceives it, with the objective of generating the much talked about upfront payment. This naturally makes people jumpy. It no longer will be a method by which citizens can take part in a lottery hoping to win a cash prize for themselves while at the same time contributing financially to their local communities. Under Fine Gael and the Labour Party, the national lottery will become a mechanism by which the Government can generate additional revenue. This completely undermines the ethos of the lottery but is completely in line with the Administration's small government view of the world.

Concerns have lingered over the years that national lottery funding for communities has in fact replaced funding of services that should be paid for directly by the State and such concerns undoubtedly will heighten under the current regime. The bord snip nua report of 2009 by the economist Professor Colm McCarthy only served to heighten these fears when he recommended to the Government that the Exchequer element of national lottery funding should be removed, thereby saving a miserly €1.8 million annually. Concerns remain that while the Government has not publicly signed up to this proposition, it may instead quietly act on Professor McCarthy's recommendation. There also are missed opportunities that may arise. For example, the Bill does not include the provision of moneys that could have been generated and allocated for the decade of centenary celebrations. In 1988, the lottery provided £700,000 towards the celebration of the Dublin city millennium and again in 1992 for Ireland's participation in Seville's Expo. The Government could have worked with An Post to create a really exciting engagement with citizens to encourage their participation in raising funds to celebrate our great history locally and nationally. Time and time again, the Government fails to embrace big ideas and real opportunities.

The Government's capital programme announcement of late 2011 stated boldly that it intended to use the upfront payment from the new national lottery operator to fund the national children's hospital. It appears as though this capital funding commitment has now been watered down to receipt of just one third of the projected proceeds from the upfront payment. Perhaps the Minister can clarify the purpose to which the Government intends to use the balance of the proceeds from the aforementioned upfront payment and how much of it will go towards the construction of the hospital. The failure of Fine Gael and the Labour Party to provide for the national children's hospital in the capital expenditure budget probably tells one all one needs to know about the Government's attitude towards children. It is a fact that since Fine Gael and the Labour Party entered government in 2011 low income households have become worse off. Single-parent families, the majority of whom are headed by women, have been a particular target. The bottom line is that priority projects such as the children's hospital must be budgeted for in real capital expenditure.

The Minister has spoken at length about stimulus and job creation but as always, he has done little about it. Over the past year, Enterprise Ireland and the IDA have created slightly more than 10,000 net jobs. That equates to one job for every 33 people who are unemployed. It is clear the actions of the Government do not reflect the scale of the problem. Despite the potential for capital investment and the unemployment crisis, Fine Gael and the Labour Party have cut the capital expenditure budget. While there have been successive announcements of so-called stimulus and capital projects, little is happening by way of delivery. Even Europe has warned against the withdrawal of capital investment. In May 2012, the European Central Bank President, Mario Draghi, specifically called on national governments to deal with deficits without interfering with capital or investment expenditure.


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