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 Header Item Health Services: Motion [Private Members] (Continued)
 Header Item Estimates for Public Services 2014: Message from Select Sub-Committee

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 828 No. 1

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  9 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Thomas Pringle: Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle]  I wish to give two examples of the impacts of the cuts in funding to the HSE on my community in County Donegal. It ties in with the example given by Deputy Mac Lochlainn of the difficulties in Letterkenny General Hospital. Killybegs community hospital has 48 beds dedicated to respite care and long-stay care for elderly patients. However, today eight of those beds are closed because of the embargo the Government has applied in the health service. Those eight beds are closed because management will not replace staff, who have retired or are on sick leave, which would allow the hospital to operate to its full capacity. This means that many elderly patients are scattered around County Donegal, many of them 40 or 50 miles away from their homes in nursing home care because they cannot access a bed in their own communities.

That shows the impact the cuts in the health services have had in recent years. Those cuts are continuing because there is no sign of the embargo being lifted. If we want the health services to work for the benefit of the community, we need to ensure that beds in community hospitals are kept operational. Staff should be allocated on a temporary basis to ensure that happens. This ties into the problems Letterkenny General Hospital is having because patients cannot move out of the general hospital into community hospitals where many beds have been closed because of staffing shortages and the ongoing embargo. That indicates the crisis we have in community hospitals.

In the past week the community on Arranmore Island was faced with the loss of its public health nurse. This is an isolated community of 500 people - ten years ago more than 1,000 people lived on the island. As a result of the withdrawal of services and the difficulties in this recession, people have moved away and emigrated. This community had a vital link in having a public health nurse available full-time on the island. The HSE in its wisdom proposed to move this nurse from the island and replace her with a part-time nurse. Thankfully, the community mobilised and today that decision was reversed, which I welcome. However, the community should never have had to do this. The community should have been comfortable in the knowledge that despite all the threats it faces, the threat of the removal of health services should not have been one. It should have been able to look to rebuild the population on the island in the confidence that it would have the services for people. That decision was only reversed because the community mobilised and fought for a service to which it is entitled.

Those two examples give an idea of the crisis that many people face every day because of a lack of investment in our health services. In launching the HSE's service plan, Mr. Tony O'Brien stated that his overriding priority was patient safety and his next priority was treating patients in as timely a fashion as possible given the constraints the service is under. It is a sad indictment of a health service in 2014 that the best we can hope for is to treat patients safely and then in a timely fashion. We should be looking to invest in our health services and develop them so that they can provide for the people who need them most.

I wish to highlight some items that have been dropped from the HSE's service plan, including a reduction of €53 million in services for older people. In the next ten years the number of people over 65 will double and in hospitals such as Killybegs Community Hospital we will need to double the number of beds - not closing beds because of an embargo. We need an investment programme to double the number of beds available over the next ten years for that ageing population. There has been a reduction of €3.9 million in the colorectal screening programme. That is an investment that would save money in the long run and it indicates the Government's short-sightedness in the HSE service plan. BreastCheck has been cut by €500,000 preventing the further roll-out of that programme, which is also an investment that would save money.

The health services need investment and increased funding as opposed to this constant mantra of more for less, which is absolute rubbish.

Debate adjourned.

Estimates for Public Services 2014: Message from Select Sub-Committee

Acting Chairman (Deputy Bernard J. Durkan): Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan The Select Sub-Committee on Health has completed its consideration of the following Revised Estimates for public services for the service of the year ending 31 December 2014: Votes 38 and 39.

  The Dáil adjourned at 9.05 p.m. until 9.30 a.m. on Wednesday, 29 January 2014.

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