I move that the Public Charitable Hospitals (Temporary Provisions) (Amendment) Bill, 1930, be read a second time. Practically every Deputy in this House is aware that very many of our county hospitals, particularly our county surgical hospitals, are at the present time very poorly equipped, and that because of that handicap they are unable efficiently to perform the work which they are supposed to do. Deputies are also aware that in very many of these hospitals there is not sufficient accommodation for the patients who have to seek treatment there. In many counties in the Saorstát the hospitals are not a separate institution. Everybody who is acquainted with the working of hospitals will admit that to be effective an hospital should be a separate institution. In one case that I have in mind in particular you have the appalling condition that the county surgical hospital is part and parcel of the same institution as the fever hospital, the ordinary county home and the hospital for treatment of medical cases for the sick poor. Everybody will admit that that is an appalling condition and that no county surgeon can efficiently perform his work under conditions such as these.
The intention of this Bill, when introduced, was to provide better equipment for county hospitals, in particular for the county surgical hospitals, and better sanitation and more accommodation for the patients who have to seek treatment there. There are at least eight or nine county hospitals in the Saorstát that are not provided with X-ray equipment. No surgeon can perform his duty properly who has not the advantage of having an X-ray photograph taken of his cases before he is called upon to operate on them. There are at least four or five county hospitals which do not boast of a proper operating theatre. In many of the hospitals the patients are sent out before they should be sent out because there is no accommodation. The beds are wanted for somebody else and the patients are sent out before their time. It is not fair to the patients, and it is not fair to the surgeon who is called upon to treat them. It may be said that Boards of Health should provide such accommodation, such equipment, and better sanitation. We all know notwithstanding assurances to the contrary that there is pretty general depression prevailing at the present time amongst the farming community, and Boards of Health are naturally reluctant to increase their estimates to provide such equipment and more accommodation, and people in the country say they are entitled to secure some of the benefits accruing from the operation of the Public Charitable Hospitals Bill of 1930. They say if any person from the country goes to Dublin for treatment he has to pay two guineas a week in hospital. If he is not able to pay it out of his own pocket the County Board of Health is asked to contribute the two guineas for him. People in the country naturally say that when such a condition of affairs exists the hospitals which they help to maintain should not be the only hospitals that benefit under the Public Charitable Hospitals Bill. They naturally claim, and with a certain amount of right, that they are entitled to something from the Bill which was passed by this House.
I do not want to delay on this question. The Bill speaks for itself, but there is one other matter that I would like to mention. Several times, when speaking on the Local Government Estimate here, Deputies stressed the question of the treatment and care of unmarried mothers. It has been advocated time and again that separate institutions or hospitals should be established at some convenient centre for these people. I submit that if a sum of money were available outside the ordinary revenue of county boards of health, three or four or five county boards of health could co-operate and equip one of the disused workhouses into a hospital for unmarried mothers from three or four counties. These people have to seek shelter at the present time in the ordinary county homes. If that were done, it would redress a grievance which has long called for redress.
In this morning's Press there was an announcement that the Minister for Justice intended to introduce a Bill to provide for the better equipment of surgical hospitals. I expect he has in mind the provision of X-ray equipment where such is not in existence, the provision of proper sanitation, of operation theatres, and the isolation of surgical hospitals. Surgical hospitals should not be in the same buildings as fever hospitals and hospitals for the ordinary sick poor. They certainly should not be in the same building with those who have, through necessitous circumstances, to seek the shelter of the present county homes. The Minister will perhaps find it a bit difficult to define what is a surgical hospital. In many hospitals throughout the Saorstát at the present time obstetrics is not undertaken in the ordinary surgical hospitals. It is undertaken in the ordinary county homes. That is largely due to the fact that there is not sufficient accommodation in the ordinary surgical hospitals. I just merely bring that point to the Minister's notice, that a hospital that undertakes the treatment of obstetrics should be classed as a surgical hospital.
I do not think there is anything further that I have to say on this Bill, except that there may be some who will oppose this Bill because they are opposed to the principle of sweepstakes in general. To these I would say that that would be a poor reason for voting against the Bill. It would be a better and a more proper thing for them to introduce a Bill to repeal the original measure. This is to place hospitals in the country, which never get voluntary subscriptions, so far as I know, which get nothing except what the people pay, on an equal footing with some of the metropolitan hospitals and the hospitals in the larger towns and cities which now derive benefit from the Public Charitable (Hospitals) Act. Those who know the conditions which exist in the county hospitals will admit that it is necessary to provide funds from some outside source or else these hospitals will not be equipped as they should be. Boards of health, unfortunately, do not see their way to involve themselves in further liabilities and increase their estimates to equip these hospitals as they should be, because equipment is pretty expensive, and this House will be doing a good day's work if it passes this Bill and sees that these hospitals get the equipment that they need to carry out their work efficiently and properly.
It may be suggested that these hospitals will get a certain percentage of the moneys made available for hospitals in general under the original Act. If the percentage is sufficiently decent I personally would be quite satisfied. But the suggestion of a percentage would also involve that some one body in the State would have a monopoly in running sweepstakes for hospitals in general, and some way out should be found by which there would be State control of the moneys available under the sweepstakes and the moneys pooled and distributed to the hospitals on a percentage basis by somebody directly under the control of the Minister's Department. If that condition were suggested I would be quite willing to accept it, provided the percentage were a decent one.