In recent years the committees of management of many voluntary hospitals in which the bed accommodation has proved inadequate to meet the demands for institutional treatment have applied for assistance from the Hospitals Trust Fund for the extension and improvement of these institutions, or for the erection of new hospitals. In some instances these institutions are carrying out functions similar to the functions performed elsewhere by local authority hospitals, and when claims for grants from the Hospitals Trust Fund for the improvement of these voluntary institutions were being dealt with consideration was given to the question of co-ordinating their activities with the general local hospital situation, and of extending the areas served by them. As the new or extended hospitals would, therefore, act to a certain extent as regional institutions, it was desirable that the local authorities concerned should have representation on their governing bodies. Agreement to this arrangement has been readily accorded by the committees of management of voluntary hospitals who have hitherto been communicated with on the subject. Legislation was found to be necessary for the purpose of enabling the existing committees to be dissolved and new joint boards to be constituted with the necessary powers for taking over the functions and duties of the governing bodies of these voluntary hospitals In the cases of the Cork and Dublin Fever Hospitals special Acts, namely, the Cork Fever Hospital Acts, 1935 and 1938, and the Dublin Fever Hospital Act, 1936, had to be passed by the Oireachtas in order to implement the agreements arrived at with the committees of management of these institutions. There are now other instances in which governing bodies of voluntary hospitals have agreed to transfer their functions to joint boards on which local authorities will have representation. It has been thought well, therefore, with a view to obviating separate legislation in each such case to submit this Bill to the House for the purpose of enabling the Minister for Local Government and Public Health to grant the necessary powers for implementing such agreements by means of an Order which is termed in the Bill an "Establishment Order." I would like to stress at this point that the power to be granted to the Minister can only be exercised where there is full agreement by the governing body of the voluntary hospital to the terms of the Establishment Order. Section 1 of the Bill prescribes that this legislation is to apply only to voluntary hospitals.
These are defined as institutions which provide for the prevention, treatment, or cure of disease, injury or deformity in human beings, or afford medical, surgical, or dental treatment to human beings, or give asylum to blind, deaf, dumb, or mentally defective persons, or to expectant mothers, or mothers of children under the age of five years and such children, subject to the condition that the governing body of such institution is not a Department of State, local authority or local authorities, or a committee of a local authority or local authorities. Sections 2 and 3 of the Bill set out the procedure in connection with the making by the governing body of a voluntary hospital of an application to the Minister for an establishment order in relation to the hospital and provide for due publicity being given to that application. It will be open to any person within a period of four weeks after the week in which notice of the application has been published for the second time to submit to the Minister a statement of any objection he may have to the making of the proposed establishment order.
On receipt of an application for an establishment order, the Minister may decide, after the specified period for the receipt of objections, either to grant the application or not, and he may hold a public inquiry before giving a decision in the matter. If he decides to grant the application he shall prepare a draft of the establishment order and submit it to the governing body of the voluntary hospital. When agreement is reached with that body as to what, if any, variations are desirable in the draft order, the Minister may make the order in the terms agreed upon. There are certain provisions laid down in the Bill which are essential for inclusion in an establishment order. These are as follows:—
The existing governing body of the voluntary hospital shall be dissolved as from a specified date and a new governing board established, wholly or partly representative of one or more local authorities. This board shall be a body corporate with a specified name, perpetual succession, a common seal, power to sue and be sued and to hold land. The property, debts, duties, and liabilities of the existing governing body shall be transferred to the board on the appointed date.
An establishment order may provide, where necessary, for the transfer to the board of the officers and servants of the governing body of the voluntary hospital, and may include arrangements whereby the service of an officer or servant of that governing body may be reckoned for the purpose of superannuation or compensation for loss of office. The board may be authorised to borrow, subject to such restrictions as may be specified, and power may be given, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, to lend to the board out of the local loans fund. The board may be authorised to do all such things as governing bodies of hospitals of the class to which such hospitals belong are usually empowered to do. Other provisions which may be included in the establishment order are set out in detail in the schedule to the Bill. These may be generally described as providing for the constitution and procedure of the board and for the carrying on of their business.
The Bill prescribes in Section 6 for publicity being given to the Establishment Order when made, and the usual power for annulment of the Order by either House of the Oireachtas is provided for in Section 7. If neither House of the Oireachtas has passed a Resolution annulling the Establishment Order, it is open to any person within a period of one month from the expiration of the time within which the Oireachtas could have annulled the Order to apply to the High Court for the annulment of the Order or any specified portion thereof, and on that application the High Court may either annul the Order or portion of the Order, if satisfied that the Order or such portion contravenes, or is not authorised by, or is not made in accordance with, the provisions of the Act, as passed. Power is taken by the Minister to annul the Establishment Order at any time before he has confirmed it. If the Establishment Order has not been annulled under the above-mentioned procedure, the Minister may confirm it, or, in the event of part of the Order having been annulled, he may confirm the remainder of the Order with such specified modifications as may be necessary owing to the lapse of time since the making of the Order. The Establishment Order or the part thereof which has been confirmed shall have the force of law. Arrangements are made under Section 11 of the Bill for the amendment of Establishment Orders which have been confirmed subject to the above-mentioned procedure being applied as if the proposed amendment were an application for a fresh Establishment Order, and power is taken to amend the Cork Fever Hospital Acts, 1935 and 1938, and the Dublin Fever Hospital Act, 1936, as if these Acts had been Establishment Orders. I move that the Bill be read a Second Time.