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 Header Item Accident and Emergency Department Waiting Times (Continued)
 Header Item Estimates for Public Services 2015: Message from Select Committee
 Header Item Ombudsman for Children Appointment: Motion

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 867 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Kathleen Lynch: Information on Kathleen Lynch Zoom on Kathleen Lynch] All hospitals have escalation plans to manage not only patient flow but also patient safety in a responsive, controlled and planned way that supports and ensures the delivery of optimum patient care. Triage is operated to prioritise patients so those with most acute needs are seen and treated as soon as possible. Senior clinicians are a key part of this system, and working with hospital management to minimise potential risk and ensure the safest possible care is a responsibility they deal with as part of their duties every day in hospitals.

Measures to manage emergency department surges involve the full health system including primary, community and continuing care services to ensure that all available capacity and options are utilised and brought to bear on the situation. Some of the measures taken by hospitals to reduce overcrowding include the opening of additional overflow areas, the curtailing of non-emergency surgery, the provision of additional diagnostics and focus on discharge planning, which I believe is key.

The House is aware the Minister, Deputy Varadkar, convened the emergency department task force to find long-term solutions to overcrowding by providing additional focus and momentum in dealing with the challenges presented by the current trolley waits. It is made up of relevant stakeholders, such as senior doctors, lead hospital consultants, GPs, HSE national directors, union representatives and senior officials from the Department of Health and the HSE. A representative of the nursing home sector should also be on the task force and I have written to the Minister in this respect.

At the task force meeting on 2 February it considered a draft action plan specifically to address emergency department issues, with a view to a significant reduction in trolley waits over the course of 2015. We are determined that the action plan is completed as soon as possible, taking the views of the task force into account, and then operationalised without delay. The task force is due to meet again on 9 March. I reassure the Deputy that we are working hard to find workable solutions to the management of emergency care, with optimum patient care and patient safety at all times remaining a Government priority. The Deputy and I know this is not an issue which arose recently. It has been with us for years. We are determined to find a solution to it. Everyone else in the world has done so and it is not beyond us.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath I am disappointed the Minister, Deputy Varadkar, is not here but I accept the Minister of State. I contend the service is not safe and it is not a quality service; this has been stated by consultants and not by me. The Minister of State said front-line staff endeavour to provide a safe and quality service, which they do, but they cannot do so without the tools or the means. If there is a fire we call the fire brigade, which is why I stated the task force is not fit for purpose and should be disbanded and the job given to people who know how to sort out the problem and who deal with it on a daily basis, not senior HSE officials who were all missing at Christmas when HSE officialdom was closed for almost 11 days. The trolleys backed up again because nobody received a letter.

What about the patients who are waiting in ambulances who cannot be taken from the ambulances and put onto trolleys because the hospital in Clonmel and other hospitals do not have a physical trolley in the building? The Government is looking in the wrong places. St. Michael's unit in South Tipperary General Hospital was forced to close and money was thrown at other services to pick up the slack for a while. It was the case that people who presented voluntarily for psychiatric care at South Tipperary General Hospital were taken by a private company to Kilkenny, but this service was withdrawn by e-mail last Friday week. It is a scandal. Now these patients must sit or stand and wait until 9 o'clock the following morning, on a chair if they can get one. This is exacerbating the situation in the accident and emergency department at the hospital. This is the result of a direct action by the Department, which gave us a service for a year and then took it away. When St. Michael's unit closed a service was provided for patients who present voluntarily, who do not feel well and know they do not feel well and need treatment, but it was taken away by an e-mail to the hospital manager last Friday week. It is scandalous and disgraceful. The actions being taken by one office is damaging and putting more pressure on accident and emergency departments.

The Minister of State does not know what is going on in the HSE and the sooner it is disbanded, as was promised by the previous Government and this Government, the better. Let the people who want to, and who are doing their best to do so, care for sick people, and let us not have officialdom choking everything, and the nonsensical situation of €4 million a week being spent on the fair deal scheme when people should be in nursing homes. The nursing homes sector should be involved. There is capacity in Tipperary and nursing homes will take patients, but official HSE is bonkers and cannot understand what is going on.

Deputy Kathleen Lynch: Information on Kathleen Lynch Zoom on Kathleen Lynch The Deputy cannot quote a consultant to me as if it were the word of God-----

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath He is eminently qualified.

Deputy Kathleen Lynch: Information on Kathleen Lynch Zoom on Kathleen Lynch I am sure he is very eminent. The Deputy cannot quote in this way and also tell me the same consultant cannot solve the problem with regard to the task force, because that is what he is saying.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath No, I am not saying that.

Deputy Kathleen Lynch: Information on Kathleen Lynch Zoom on Kathleen Lynch It is a contradiction and he cannot do so.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath Senior officials-----

Deputy Kathleen Lynch: Information on Kathleen Lynch Zoom on Kathleen Lynch It is not acceptable that people must wait nine hours in some cases for admission when they need to be admitted.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath It is 48 hours in some cases.

Deputy Kathleen Lynch: Information on Kathleen Lynch Zoom on Kathleen Lynch We have put in place a system for transfers whereby separate services are provided by ambulances for acute transfer to accident and emergency departments and by ambulances which transfer people from hospital to hospital. If one is not acute and needs to be transferred, whether to another hospital, service or home such a service is in place and it is far more efficient-----

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath It is invisible. I have not seen it.

Deputy Kathleen Lynch: Information on Kathleen Lynch Zoom on Kathleen Lynch -----and effective than going by taxi. I know in some instances taxis provide a very good service. The State must take responsibility for people being transferred, and we have done so by way of putting in place a second layer of ambulance transfer.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath There are no ambulances. You pulled the service from Clonmel last week.

Estimates for Public Services 2015: Message from Select Committee

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett The Select Sub-Committee on Communications, Energy and Natural Resources has completed its consideration of the following Revised Estimate for public services for the year ending 31 December 2015: Vote 29 — Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.

Ombudsman for Children Appointment: Motion

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy James Reilly): Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly I move:

That Dáil Éireann recommends Dr. Niall Muldoon for appointment by the President to be Ombudsman for Children.

  Members of the House are aware that the position of Ombudsman for Children became vacant after the resignation of Ms Emily Logan in September 2014 following her appointment as chief commissioner of the newly established Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission. Dr. Muldoon was selected following a comprehensive independent recruitment and selection process which was conducted at my request by the Public Appointments Service. The Government, at its meeting of 3 February 2015, approved the nomination of Dr. Niall Muldoon for appointment by the President as Ombudsman for Children in accordance with the Ombudsman for Children Act 2002.

  The relevant legislative provisions with regard to appointment to the Office of Ombudsman for Children are as described in section 4 of the Ombudsman for Children Act 2002, which provides in section 4(2), "The appointment of a person to be the Ombudsman for Children shall be made by the President upon resolution passed by Dáil Éireann and by Seanad Éireann recommending the appointment of the person." This is the reason the motion is before the House today.

  Section 4(4) of the Act states that a person appointed to be the Ombudsman for Children shall hold the Office of Ombudsman for Children for a term of six years and may be re-appointed once only to that office for a second term. The first Ombudsman for Children, Ms Emily Logan, was appointed on 18 December 2003 for a six-year term of office and was reappointed with effect from 18 December 2009 for a further six-year term. There was unanimous support in both Houses for these appointments.

 I acknowledge Ms Logan, and record my appreciation for the work she has done as the first Ombudsman for Children, and her achievements over ten years in building the office and working tirelessly for the rights and welfare of children. I wish her every success in her new career.


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