Working in the Community, Working for the Community

Deputy Healy raises the issue of A&E conditions at South Tipperary General Hospital with An Taoiseach

Deputy Seamus Healy: Approximately three weeks ago, on 25 March, I raised with the Taoiseach the absolutely unacceptable number of patients on trolleys and chairs in the accident and emergency department in South Tipperary General Hospital. I described the conditions on that day as reminiscent of those in the Third World. I make no apology for this. Three weeks later, nothing has been done, despite requests from hospital staff and management and the HSE south east management. Today, there is a full-blown crisis in the accident and emergency department. The emergency requires emergency action from the Taoiseach. There were 29 patients on trolleys in the hospital this morning. They are in the accident and emergency department, the corridors of the department, the corridors of the rest of the hospital and along the main public thoroughfare of the hospital. An individual sent me a photograph of a relative who is recovering from a subarachnoid haemorrhage but who is on a trolley in the main public thoroughfare of the hospital, up against a bank of vending machines. Patients have absolutely no privacy. The bathroom and toilet facilities for patients are either totally inadequate or non-existent. This is absolutely unacceptable and outrageous.

The number of patients on trolleys in the hospital increased from 750 in 2011, when the current Government came to power, to 3,100 in 2013. The hospital budget has been cut by €11 million, or nearly 25%, and more than 100 staff have been lost. The hospital is now working at 120% capacity every day of the year. Hospital staff simply cannot cope and, despite their working above and beyond the call of duty, they are struggling to provide a safe service.

An Ceann Comhairle: Has the Deputy a question?

Deputy Seamus Healy: The HSE, the Department of Health and the Minister for Health have failed the patients in the hospital. We require emergency action today. I ask the Taoiseach to take charge of this matter personally and approve additional medical, nursing and support staff for the emergency department in the hospital. I want him to approve additional beds and open additional step-down beds for the hospital.

The Taoiseach: Deputy Healy raised this a number of weeks ago. No less than anyone else, I feel for patients who must go to hospital and those who find themselves in circumstances that are not at a premium level or who are not in the best facilities. I do not have the details Deputy Healy read out, although he raised this three weeks ago. I undertake to ask the Minister for Health for a report on the facts the Deputy mentioned in respect of South Tipperary General Hospital, and I will advise the Deputy on the official response.

The Deputy is well aware of the action taken by the Minister at national level in respect of reducing trolley numbers in recent years. This action has been quite successful. Obviously, there seem to be circumstances in the Deputy’s local hospital that are not conducive to providing care of the best level, as the Deputy pointed out. I will undertake to seek a report from the Minister, through the HSE, on the facts the Deputy outlined in his question today.

Deputy Seamus Healy: There is a crisis in the hospital today. It is all very well producing reports but we need action today. There are 29 patients on trolleys in the hospital, which amounts to ten more than three weeks ago when I raised this issue originally. The HSE is well aware of the matter, as are the Department of Health and the Minister. The Taoiseach is aware of it because I raised it with him in the House three weeks ago. I ask the Taoiseach to take action on this crisis in his capacity as Taoiseach and leader of the Government and country. There is a way to do so, as I told him three weeks ago.

There is provision in the HSE national service plan, under “Critical Service Priorities”, to have €30 million just for situations like this. I asked the Taoiseach three weeks ago and I ask him again today to initiate moneys from that section of the national service plan to provide additional staff at the Department and to open additional beds in the hospital and also step-down beds. As I said, this is an emergency situation and it requires emergency action. All else has failed. It is now Deputy Kenny’s responsibility, as Taoiseach and as leader of this country, to make the necessary decisions and to approve what I have just requested.

The Taoiseach: Deputy Healy is well aware that when we were spending €16 billion on the health system, the numbers on trolleys and the situation in hospital wards throughout the country were in very poor shape. Money is not the answer here.

Deputy Seamus Healy: The Government has the money.

The Taoiseach: An agreement has been set out under Haddington Road for rostering and for changes in regard to all of these things. I have not had a report from—–

Deputy Seamus Healy: The numbers on trolleys have quadrupled since they came into government.

An Ceann Comhairle: Sorry, Deputy. You have had your say.

The Taoiseach: I have not had a report from the manager in South Tipperary General Hospital. There has to be a reason for the excess numbers who are on trolleys, as the Deputy pointed out.

Deputy Seamus Healy: €11 million in cuts is the reason.

The Taoiseach: I do not know if it is a particular issue with the health of some people in the area or what the reasons are for having 29 patients on trolleys. I have offered to find out for the Deputy but he should not expect me to say that we can employ X number of extra people tonight or tomorrow or that we can open beds.

Deputy Seamus Healy: The management in the south east have already asked for this.

The Taoiseach: The Deputy is not dealing with reality there. There has to be a reason for this. The management of the beds in every hospital is a matter for the hospital chief executive and the hospital manager. I do not have a report from them in respect of what the Deputy raises here. I have undertaken to find out for the Deputy from the Minister of Health, through the HSE, what the exact situation is and I will advise Deputy Healy of that.

Deputy Seamus Healy: That is not good enough.


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