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 Header Item Services for People with Disabilities (Continued)
 Header Item Hospital Services
 Header Item Hospital Staff

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 830 No. 3

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Kathleen Lynch: Information on Kathleen Lynch Zoom on Kathleen Lynch] The group identified the need for a new centralised regional application process and arrangements for implementing the new process are in train. The HSE is liaising with disability agencies and the National Council for Special Education to supply the necessary information on this process to families. The deadline for applications was 1 February, however, some flexibility will be give as the application process is in its first year. Supports required for each individual will be identified and agreed and a communications process with all stakeholders will be put in place by the end of March. Young people and their parents will be advised by the end of June 2014 of the placement which will be available to them.

We made the argument this happens every year and should come as no surprise so we needed to plan for it, which is exactly what we did.

Deputy Seán Kyne: Information on Seán Kyne Zoom on Seán Kyne I thank the Minister of State for her reply and I compliment her on the new initiative. I appreciate we discussed this in the House in 2012 and 2013, particularly with regard to my area of Galway, and there were inordinate delays in those years. All parents and children are now satisfied they have a place but unfortunately it was protracted. It was September or early October before some children were sorted in Galway. I am confident the new initiative will rectify this. I also welcome the additional funding and decentralised registration process. Is the Minister of State confident that by June all parents will know what will be available for their children?

Deputy Kathleen Lynch: Information on Kathleen Lynch Zoom on Kathleen Lynch This is the first year and there will always be little hiccups in the initial stages. I am confident even if we do not reach the deadline in March or June it will be a far more stable process and people will be reassured their loved ones, and in some instances they are not children, will have an appropriate place in June, July, August and September. We decided if these people were to apply for third level courses they would do so at this time of the year or late last year. It is about knowing what is coming down the track and the needs of the individual, and ensuring these needs are met. I am very confident not alone this year but in coming years the system will work well and the uncertainty which existed in the past will be removed.

Deputy Seán Kyne: Information on Seán Kyne Zoom on Seán Kyne I am very hopeful about the new system and I am sure it goes without saying the Minister of State will continue to liaise with the national oversight group to ensure we make progress and families are not put through the same stress as they were in other years.

  Question No. 9 replied to with Written Answers.

Hospital Services

 10. Deputy David Stanton Information on David Stanton Zoom on David Stanton asked the Minister for Health Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly the position regarding the epilepsy monitoring unit in Cork University Hospital; when this unit will open; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6796/14]

Deputy David Stanton: Information on David Stanton Zoom on David Stanton I wish to ascertain the position on the proposed epilepsy monitoring unit at Cork University Hospital. When will it open and how many beds will it contain?

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly The epilepsy national clinical care programme provides for the commissioning of a regional epilepsy monitoring unit to be based in Cork University Hospital. This unit will provide accessible comprehensive care for patients in the southern area, particularly those with acutely unstable and disabling chronic epilepsy.

The executive management board of Cork University Hospital allocated ward 3A as a suitable location for the epilepsy monitoring unit to be shared with the facility for stroke services. Funding of €140,000 was provided for the infrastructural upgrade of ward 3A and a further €217,000 was provided for the purchase of the required epilepsy monitoring equipment.

The HSE has advised that commissioning of the unit requires the recruitment of additional nursing and allied health professional staff. Recruitment of nursing staff has, I understand, been particularly challenging, but I am assured the recruitment process is in the final stages, and candidates who were successful at interview are now being offered contracts of employment.

I have also been assured the unit is now equipped and will open no later than 31 March 2014 and I look forward to seeing the Deputy there.

Deputy David Stanton: Information on David Stanton Zoom on David Stanton I thank the Minister for his response.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin This matter was raised at a meeting of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children on Tuesday when Dr. Colin Doherty, the national clinical lead for the epilepsy programme, was before the committee. He indicated he was at a loss to understand this because he had been a direct participant in advertising and interviewing during the recruitment process. He could not in any way explain the inordinate delay in closing the appointments. It baffles him. He stated the national epilepsy care programme and the HSE had provided funding for the seven nursing staff required to deliver the programme and, for what he described as unclear reasons, nothing has happened. Cork University Hospital has already invested more than €500,000 in equipment which is awaiting staff.

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly Cad é an ceist?

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin The ceist is will the Minister try-----

Deputy David Stanton: Information on David Stanton Zoom on David Stanton The time is up.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin What is happening this morning? With respect I ask Deputy Stanton to allow me to finish.

Deputy David Stanton: Information on David Stanton Zoom on David Stanton With respect, the time is up. Ask a question.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin We have. It is a very serious matter when the clinical lead outlines the difficulties. Will the Minister establish why the delay has taken place and why we have not already seen the appointments in Cork in line with all of the other areas, and ensure we will not have a repetition of such delays for such an important service?

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly With respect, what is truly important is to ensure patients have this excellent service available to them in Cork. Last week I was in Beaumont Hospital at the opening of its new unit where I met the staff there and some of the patients. It is a state of the art unit with the latest technological equipment available and the staff will now be able to diagnose with much greater accuracy the forms of epilepsy people have and will therefore be able to treat with much greater effect these conditions. As a professional who dealt with many people who have this condition I can tell the Deputy one drug after another was tried in the hope that one might work. Now we have a much more scientific way of addressing these issues and seeing whether stereotactic surgery would alleviate problems completely.

I met a gentleman there who is related to a Member of the House who was very happy to tell us his life has been transformed in the past two years. He is now epilepsy free and can go where he wishes and does not need to plan the day around his condition. It is like a new lease of life for him. I thank all of the doctors and nurses working in the units and the lead, Dr. Colin Doherty, who does outstanding work on our behalf in this regard. The delays are not something on which I have intimate knowledge but I know some issues arose with regard to staffing which have been resolved and we look forward to the unit opening in Cork and delivering care there.

Hospital Staff

 11. Deputy Charlie McConalogue Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Health Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly the steps he has taken to address the shortage of non-consultant hospital doctors at Letterkenny General Hospital, County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [6842/14]

Deputy Charlie McConalogue: Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue What steps is the Minister taking to address the shortage of non-consultant hospital doctors in Letterkenny General Hospital in County Donegal?

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly I thank the Deputy for the question. The number of non-consultant hospital doctors, NCHDs, in the public health system has increased by more than 200 in recent years and now exceeds 4,900. However, there are international shortages of NCHDs in certain categories and specialties. There are also some hospitals, such as Letterkenny, to which it has been difficult to attract NCHDs, for a range of reasons including training opportunities and rural location. We must live with this fact and do everything we can to address it.

Letterkenny General Hospital had an NCHD complement of 105 whole-time equivalents prior to the drive to support implementation of the European working time directive. To facilitate the implementation of the directive, it has received approval to employ a further 16 whole-time equivalents, increasing the total approved NCHD complement to 121.

Since July 2013, there have been ongoing efforts to recruit doctors for the January 2014 intake of NCHDs to ensure recruitment of all 121 whole-time equivalents. Unfortunately, due to national and international shortages of NCHDs, Letterkenny General Hospital, as of 11 February, has 26.5 vacant posts.


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