Debate on Health Service Cutbacks

In Health, News, Posts by Topic by Denis Naughten

Speech by Denis Naughten

Fine Gael Deputy Spokesperson on Health & Children

Debate on Health Service Cutbacks

Dáil Éireann, Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Roscommon Hospital

The HSE through the direction of the Minister for Health is playing Russian roulette with the lives of people within the catchment of Roscommon & Portiuncula Hospitals.

The HSE is presently devising plans to transfer vital services such as Accident & Emergency from Roscommon & Portiuncula Hospitals, and maternity services from Ballinasloe to Galway University Hospital

The decision to close down our hospitals will see the lives of local people put at serious risk.

The reality is that GUH cannot cater for the current number of patients attending the hospital, never mind the chaos that would be created if Roscommon & Portiuncula Hospitals were downgraded.

Even the most basic analysis of the HSE’s own HealthStat data shows that the waiting times which people experience for different services at GUH are, and I quote, “unsatisfactory and require urgent attention”.

In fact GUH is one of the worst performing hospitals in the country for access to services.

Furthermore, the trolley watch data shows that there is on average 23 patients a week lying on trolleys in Portiuncula, 20 in Roscommon and 90 in GUH.

Based on these figures, the transfer of the Roscommon/Portiuncula services would see, conservatively, a 50% increase in the number of patients on trolleys in GUH.

This makes no sense, especially when services are being transferred to a hospital which is already bursting at the seams, in fact you can’t even park a car never mind get a bed.

The reality is that these decisions are being taken to serve a flawed political agenda of the Progressive Democrats, a now defunct entity.

Minister Harney, last night was trying to spin the story that cutting services & downgrading hospitals was the only way to make savings.

Why not abolish the failed entity which is the HSE.

An experiment which is costing the taxpayers millions, and eating up valuable front line resources.

We need people on the front line, to treat people, who are in need of care, not more managers to massage the media.

The fact is that Roscommon & Portiuncula Hospitals are vital facilities for an entire region.

I do not accept the HSE’s argument that it makes sense to withdraw services before long promised new services are even developed.

This is nothing more than a pig in a poke policy, and we have already seen its consequences in relation to cancer services.

We were told to “trust us” when cancer services were withdrawn from local hospitals and transferred to GUH.

Instead of getting a better service, we now have to fight for a service.

Just over a month ago a shameful & disgusting threat hung over oncology services at Portiuncula Hospital.

The service in Ballinasloe is one which is at the leading edge of cancer treatment in Ireland, providing a bench mark for future development of services in local hospitals

One of the core objectives of this service is to keep patients as close as possible to their own homes and families; a goal which is so important for cancer patients and their successful recovery.

Within the past few days, a young mother in County Galway, who had a planned admission for ongoing chemotherapy at University College Hospital Galway, was refused admission and her treatment postponed. She was to have a re-appointment in nine weeks but received a letter stating the appointment would be in nine months’ time.

And this evening I have been informed that one of the new out reach services established at Portiuncula Hospital, namely a plastic day surgery service, which is taking 24 patients/month off the GUH backlog, is to be pulled because it seems there is no one to type up 24 letters a month.

The lack of a clerical back up service, is now leading to a situation where people with lumps & bumps, some of which may be cancerous, are to be put on a never ending waiting list.

How can this be allowed to happen when the HSE west employs the highest proportion of corporate staff compared to any other HSE region. A total of 813, or 3.03% of the 26,000 staff are corporate.

So much for taking day surgery out of GUH and giving more work to local hospitals.

So much for the commitment to the centres of excellence.

This piecemeal approach to health policy, is allowing the HSE, and the Government, to slowly dismantle services at Roscommon & Portiuncula Hospitals. Starve the hospitals of the money they need to maintain safe services.

It is now clear that the health agenda has absolutely nothing to do patient safety; it is all about saving money instead of saving lives,

It seems that the Government and the HSE are determined to put the lives of those battling cancer at risk just to raise the money needed to bail out a septic banking system.