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 Header Item Technological Universities (Continued)
 Header Item Accident and Emergency Department Waiting Times

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 867 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien] The crux of the issue is that we are asking institutions to merge with the prospect of becoming technological universities but with no guarantee that they will achieve that designation once they merge. As a result, institutions having merged may have reduced their courses or rationalised the number of teaching staff and may not get the benefits of being designated as technological university. This issue must be addressed.

Deputy Michael Moynihan: Information on Michael Moynihan Zoom on Michael Moynihan I thank the Minister for her reply. This is an issue of concern to staff. Everyone needs to be brought on board with regard to mergers. I respectfully ask the Minister as a matter of urgency to meet the TUI which represent the staff at both institutes and to hear their concerns. Nobody wants this matter to go to industrial relations. There needs to be face-to-face meetings. I have asked the Minister to meet the Higher Education Authority and the trade union in an effort to resolve the issue. The governing bodies of both institutes should meet the unions. The staff have no confidence in the process to date. Where there is such a level of disengagement or lack of faith in the process, then the issue is heading into very difficult waters.

I ask the Minister if she will meet the TUI to discuss the issues relating to the policy and the merger. I ask her to ensure that the Higher Education Authority meets with the TUI to discuss the issues and to ensure that the governing bodies of both institutes meet the TUI to thrash out the issues of concern.

Deputy Jan O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan Deputy O'Brien stated that a claim has been lodged with the Labour Relations Commission. Therefore, I must be careful as to my engagement with the matter. None of us is happy to hear that there are concerns. The criteria for the various stages of the process were always very clear from the start, such as the bar that had to be reached in order to move from one stage to the next. I do not think any of the institutions were in any doubt that this was the process. There has been wide consultation. The Higher Education Authority is dealing with the issue directly with the institutions and an outside body has set certain standards which must be achieved. The process is clear. My direct involvement may not be appropriate at this stage but I hope there will be engagement, in particular, by the two institutions in the Munster region.

With regard to the south east where there have been issues, I have appointed Michael Kelly to engage with all stakeholders, including those working in the institutions, those who run them, local interests and local public representatives. That process is under way in the south east. The issues in the south, in Munster, need to be addressed by way of consultation. It may not be appropriate at this stage for me to meet the trade union representing the staff.

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien So no process is being put in place.

Deputy Jan O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan I will give it some thought as to what assistance the Department can give.

Accident and Emergency Department Waiting Times

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath I thank the Ceann Comhairle for allowing me to raise this most serious situation in our country which is happening in front of our eyes and which is worsening by the day. I wish to pay tribute to the manager and front-line staff in Clonmel hospital and in the other Tipperary hospitals, St. Patrick's, St. Theresa's, St. Brigid's, Cluain Arainn and Tipperary, for their work. They are dealing under pressure with quite ill patients who are on trolleys in corridors. It is not acceptable in this day and age and the situation is getting worse instead of better. I had a call yesterday from a 98 year old who was on a trolley in Clonmel - or South Tipperary General Hospital, as they like to call it, but I know it as St. Joseph's in Clonmel. There were 19 patients on trolleys yesterday. South Tipperary General Hospital is an old hospital, albeit a very functioning and good hospital. However, it does not have the capacity, nor even the space in the corridors, to allow for any kind of treatment or examination of patients, because the physical width of the corridors is too narrow. The hospital had to employ a security man last week to move the accompanying families out of the corridor. These people were trying to stay with their family members to cover them and be with them while they were waiting to be seen. It is a disgraceful situation by any standards.

I welcome some people who are in the Gallery. I welcome the Dunne family who received an award from Uachtarán na hÉireann, Michael D. Higgins, for their 30 years of care work. I welcome Councillor Richie Molloy, who is manager of the carers. Only for all the work they do there would be many more people in hospital.

I remind the Minister of State that the reality is awful. The fair deal scheme is log-jammed with a 15-week delay. This is where that awful term "bed blockers" is used. It is an awful name. People who do not want to be in hospital and they have decided to go to a nursing home cannot get onto the fair deal scheme. This is costing the health service €4 million a week. Those people could stay in a nursing home for €1,000 a week while it costs €1,000 a day for a bed in a hospital. There is no logic and no joined-up thinking.

I refer to the HIQA report on patient safety which found in 2011 that of the total number of patients who attended the accident and emergency department in Tallaght hospital, 14% of those left without being treated. This is happening in every hospital and it is getting worse. People cannot bear it any longer because it is dangerous and unacceptable. If they have a family to look after them they leave and go to the GP.

I refer to what others have said, including Dr. Aidan Gleeson, head of the emergency department in Beaumont Hospital which is currently under siege from serious overcrowding. He said today that patients left on trolleys suffer increased risk of harm or death. He is an eminent doctor in Beaumont. Patients with heart attacks are being diagnosed late while patients with pneumonia and sepsis may not be getting the resuscitation and antibiotics quickly enough because they cannot get a doctor to examine them. Dr. Gleeson said that this is the reality in hospitals. Those are not my words. One would find better in the Third World. Who is going to take charge of this situation? It is outrageous.

There has been a national crisis in accident and emergency departments for years. I do not blame the Minister of State or the Minister, Deputy Varadkar. However, it must be dealt with and not by this so-called task force. As the Taoiseach told me last week, it is an expert panel. It is a case of all chiefs and no Indians. What we need is a manager like Grace Rothwell and other managers and front-line staff to be on that panel, not individual vested interests representing the consultants or the INMO - I agree they must be represented but at different forums. We need to take this out and look at it properly and to have a functioning and dedicated team of people who know what they are doing and above all, who will have the support of HSE senior management, so that they can deal with the crisis in accident and emergency departments. This task force is not fit for purpose because all the top guns are on it. They are pushing paper around, making decisions, looking for promotion, minding their own jobs and not looking after the health of the public who deserve it.

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Kathleen Lynch): Information on Kathleen Lynch Zoom on Kathleen Lynch I am taking this topical issue on behalf of the Minister for Health, Deputy Leo Varadkar. I welcome the people in the Gallery who are in receipt of the acknowledgement of the help and care they have delivered to people in need of it down through the years.

I thank the Deputies for raising this issue today. I wish to emphasise that the Government regards trolley waits as unacceptable and it acknowledges the difficulties which overcrowding in accident and emergency causes for patients, their families and the staff who are doing their utmost to provide safe, quality care in very challenging circumstances. As of this morning, the 8 a.m. update from hospitals indicated 400 patients on trolleys. While 400 people waiting for a hospital bed is not in any way acceptable, it must be acknowledged that through the hard work of hospitals working together, supported by other HSE services, HSE management and the Department, we have significantly reduced the numbers which were experienced on 6 January of this year.

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