TROLLEY CRISIS – Reopen the Accident and Emergency departments at Nenagh General Hospital and Ennis General Hospital, reopen Our Lady’s Hospital Cashel and lift the moratorium on both staffing and home help hours.
From 2002 on, successive Governments have espoused and implemented the downgrading of hospitals and the transfer of acute hospital services to so-called centres of excellence. We all know that that policy has created chaos. It was wrong then and it is wrong now, and it should never have happened.
We in South Tipperary were lucky, that people power, that 15,000 people on the streets stopped the transfer of our services to other areas, but other areas were not as lucky. It is now time to recognise that failure of policy and reverse that policy failure.
The trolley figures are a clear example of the chaos. Those figures, and we are talking about human beings on trolleys in accident and emergency departments, on corridors and in wards are a clear example of the chaos, are a clear example of the failure and a clear example of the indignity suffered by thousands upon thousands of patients over the past ten years. The figures for October, 11,452, are absolutely outrageous. The figures are climbing year on year, and of course we haven’t really entered Winter at all yet.
One of the areas which has suffered the brunt of the policy that I am speaking is the mid-west, including Limerick, Clare and north Tipperary, which is part of my constituency. There are knock-on effects at South Tipperary General Hospital in addition. University Hospital Limerick and South Tipperary General Hospital consistently among the highest trolley figures in the country. Today’s trolley figures are absolutely obscene. Patients are suffering and patients are dying on trolleys in our emergency departments, something the Irish Association for Emergency Medicine has warned us about for the past number of years. Today’s figures are the second highest ever recorded.
Mary Harney, the former Minister for Health, declared an emergency when there were 602 patients on trolleys. Today there are 679 patients on trolleys. The particular problems at University Hospital Limerick and in Clare and north Tipperary started with the closure of the accident and emergency departments at Nenagh General Hospital and at Ennis General Hospital. There is now a campaign locally and there have been a number of very successful meetings to demand the reopening of the Accident and Emergency departments both at Nenagh General Hospital and at Ennis General Hospital
The chaos resulting from the policy I have described has been compounded by two moratoriums. Everybody in this Chamber, including the Taoiseach, knows they are real.
We have a moratorium on the recruitment of staff. There are currently 432 vacant posts for staff nurses, public health nurses and staff midwives. There are more than 500 nurse vacancies in mental health services. I know three nursing posts have been vacant for the past six months in South Tipperary mental health services, in the child and adolescent mental health services and a Clinical Nurse Specialist for mental health services in the accident and emergency department in Clonmel.
Is it now time to accept that the policy of downgrading hospitals has failed and that the policy should be reversed? Isn’t it now time to agree to the reopening of the accident and emergency department in Ennis and Nenagh? And isn’t it now time finally to recognise what we all know that there is a moratorium on both staffing and home help hours and that that moratorium should be lifted immediately.
I have to say that I am shocked at the lack of urgency that the Taoiseach displays, almost indifference, almost as if this situation is normal. The trolley figures are absolutely obscene. We have people suffering on trolleys in our hospitals and people are dying on trolleys in our hospitals. The Taoiseach is the leader of this country and I have to say that he has a responsibility for this obscenity, he has a responsibility for the suffering and a responsibly for the deaths of these people on trolleys in our hospitals over recent years, a position that continues to this day. The Taoiseach can solve this problem.
He absolutely can solve this problem. I ask him to introduce immediately a supplementary budget to tax the 1%, the very wealthy people, the billionaires who own 27.3% of all the wealth in this country. They are not paying their fair share now, nor have they ever done so. I want the Taoiseach to reopen the accident and emergency departments at Nenagh General Hospital and Ennis General Hospital and to reopen Our Lady’s Hospital Cashel, a state-of-the-art hospital which has been vacant for the past ten years. The Taoiseach has the responsibility to solve this problem. He can do it. The question is whether he has the political will to do it.
Healy Demands immediate opening of Existing vacant 40 bed Hospital Unit at Our Lady’s Hospital, Cashel.
Deputy Seamus Healy has again raised the scandal of a closed 40 bed unit at Our Lady’s Hospital Cashel while at the same time South Tipperary General Hospital is bursting at the seams.
Deputy Healy has raised the issue of overcrowding at South Tipperary General Hospital twice in the Dáil at the election of Taoiseach and is again raising this issue ahead of a debate on health in the Dáil tomorrow where he will again be calling for urgent action.
It is long since passed the time when the trolley crisis at the hospital must be tackled.
On the 10th March, the first day of the vote on the election of Taoiseach, there were 44 patients on trolleys at South Tipperary General Hospital, the highest number in the country. On the second day of the vote for Taoiseach there were 38 patients on trolleys and the numbers have been consistently high since well before Christmas.
It’s not as if there isn’t a solution to the problem. There is a very obvious solution.
There is an existing 40 bed hospital unit, moth balled, closed and lying idle at Our Lady’s Hospital, Cashel.
Deputy Healy is demanding that this unit be opened immediately to relieve the crisis at South Tipperary General Hospital.
It is not good enough that patients must lie for days on trolleys at South Tipperary General Hospital while the Health Service Executive does nothing.
Patients have no privacy and little or no access to wash and bathroom facilities.
The Emergency Department crisis is now affecting the whole hospital. The occupancy of the 79 medical beds is now running at 150% and general surgery and gynaecology procedures are being cancelled.
The whole hospital is now running at way above capacity, in the region of 130%, putting huge pressure on patients and staff and raising the issue of safety.
It is time to solve this situation once and for all and the solution is available and obvious – the opening of the Cashel Unit.
I will again be raising this issue in the Dáil tomorrow.
Seamus Healy T.D.19/4/2016
Tel 087 2802199