I should like, first of all, to congratulate the Minister and his advisers on the manner in which they have faced up to the problem which undoubtedly existed in the Bill when it was introduced here. At that time, under the Section now being amended, it was proposed to amalgamate and vest in the new Dublin Health Authority, the Dublin Fever Hospital at Cherry Orchard. With that amalgamation and vesting went the assets and the interest of a very old charity. I felt at the time that this was a very glaring defect in the Bill which otherwise might have received support here in the House. I felt in particular it was an assault on private voluntary charitable work. I am very happy to note that following the Second Reading, the Minister has had meetings with the charitable persons concerned at present with the running and the ownership of the Dublin Fever Hospital Board. I think it was a very fine thing for the Minister to do particularly as the Minister had, as he stated, a very strong view in relation to the abolition of this Hospital.
While the amendments now proposed do not meet entirely the objection I had in mind they certainly go a great deal towards meeting them and I learn that the Minister's approach has had the appreciation of all those concerned with this particular matter.
I would like to avail of the opportunity on this Stage to deal with what I think is a misapprehension on the Minister's part in relation to my views when I was Minister concerning the Dublin Fever Hospital Board. I stated during the discussion on the Committee Stage that I was not aware of any proposal to abolish the Dublin Fever Hospital. I repeat that statement deliberately now. I was not aware at any stage, when I was Minister, that it was intended that the Dublin Fever Hospital Board should be amalgamated with the new Dublin Health Authority.
It is proper that I should, for the purposes of the record, clear up this matter because, following the Committee Stage the Minister wrote me a letter and I am sure I have his permission to read that letter. On the 15th February, of this year the Minister wrote me as follows:
Dear Deputy O'Higgins: Apropos the references in Dáil Eireann on the Second and Committee Stages of the Health (Unified Authorities) Bill, 1959, to the inclusion of the Dublin Fever Hospital in the ambit of the Dublin Health Authority, I enclose for your information photostat copies of:
1. A memorandum or note on the subject of unification submitted to you as Minister by the Department (See paragraph 1);
2. A direction given by you as Minister following consideration of that note that the matter should be referred to the Government; and
3. An extract from the memorandum, dated 3 Bealtaine, 1955 subsequently submitted to and considered by the Government.
The memorandum referred to and the extract of which it was part states in paragraph 1:
In June 1952 the Government approved of the preparation of a Bill providing that the Health functions of Dublin Corporation and Dublin County Council and all the functions of the Dublin, Rathdown and Balrothery Boards of Assistance and the Dublin Fever Hospital Board should in future be dealt with by a new Health Authority. It was proposed that the new authority would have the services of a whole time chief executive officer,
and so on.
That statement was in a file and was associated with a memorandum which apparently came before me as Minister and which I considered: I then issued a direction to the Secretary of the Department as follows:
Secretary:—I have read the note attached. I am anxious that the whole question should again be discussed by the Government. A document should accordingly be prepared setting out what steps have already been taken. Give some priority to this.
Following that direction a submission or document for the Government was prepared which again referred, inter alia, to the Dublin Fever Hospital Board although I was not so aware at the time. In paragraph 16 of that document it states:
The Minister for Health wishes to submit this matter for the Government's approval.
The Government's decision of the 2nd June, 1955, was notified to me as Minister by the Secretary to the Government as follows:
I am to refer to the memorandum submitted by the Minister for Health and to inform you that it was decided that the Minister should examine the matter further in consultation with the local authorities concerned.
That was the decision of the Government on a memorandum submitted by me. It is correct to say that reference is made to the Dublin Fever Hospital Board being concerned with the proposed amalgamation but I was not aware of that and certainly would not have given approval to it.
It is interesting to note that the Minister, in his reading of this matter, went on the statement contained in the memorandum that the Government, in June, 1952, had approved of a proposal relating to the unification of Health Services in Dublin and elsewhere which included the Dublin Fever Hospital Board and these hospitals.
That was in June, 1952. When I was dealing with this matter in my Department at the time, the one document with which I was familiar was a document known as the Dooge Report. That was the report of a Joint Committee set up in Dublin City and County to consider the proposal as it affected Dublin City and County. It is interesting to note that following the Government decision of June, 1952, the official notification which issued from the Department dated 30th September, 1952, excluded the Dublin Fever Hospital from the proposed Dublin Health Authority. I do not need to refer to that letter. The Minister can get it. It is dated 30th September, 1952, and the relative paragraph, which is about half way down the letter, states as follows:
The Minister proposes that in Dublin City and County there should be one health authority, to consist of 16 members of the Corporation and 8 members of the County Council, to carry out the health functions of the Dublin Corporation, the Dublin County Council and the three Boards of Assistance, and the functions of the Grangegorman Mental Hospital Board. The new body would have the services of a whole-time officer....
There is no inclusion of the Dublin Fever Hospital Board and that this matter was so understood appeared from the report of the Joint Committee on the Proposed Amalgamation of the Health Services in Dublin City and County dated December, 1952. On page 15, paragraph 19, of the Report, the Minister's proposal is dealt with in the following way:—
The Minister's proposal is that the Health Services for the population of Dublin City and County (700,000 people) should be administered by a single authority. This Health Authority would consist of 24 members—16 of whom would be members of Dublin Corporation and eight members of Dublin County Council. The new Authority would have the power, if it wished, to set up Committees to deal with matters arising in relation to Health Services in sub-divisions of its functional area. The Authority would have the services of a whole-time executive officer to carry out the appropriate functions. The staff of the Authority would be formed from the present staffs of the three Boards of Assistance and the Mental Hospital Board. The new Health Authority would carry out the present Health functions of Dublin Corporation, Dublin County Council and the three Boards of Assistance, and the functions of Grangegorman Mental Hospital Board. It would not administer the present functions of the Dublin Fever Hospital Board, which would still remain as a separate Local Authority.
That was the proposal which I understood and with which I was familiar and it is the proposal outlined in that Report of the Joint Committee following the Departmental letter of 30th September, 1952. It was never suggested to me by any of my advisers —and if it had been so suggested I should have dealt with it in accordance with my own view and policy— that this proposal would involve the abolition of the Dublin Fever Hospital Board. The Minister's records in his Department will show him that I discussed the significance of unified health services with every body and board likely to be affected.
I never had any discussions along those lines with the Dublin Fever Hospital Board. In fact, as the Minister is probably aware, I was extremely concerned about the future of the Dublin Fever Hospital Board. I was very much concerned in relation to what proper and beneficial use that hospital could be put in the future. I was aware—I had been so advised— that the fever problem did not represent in 1954 and 1955, and was unlikely to represent in the future, the problem it had represented when the new Fever Hospital was blueprinted and built.
The Minister has kindly sent me the minutes of certain Departmental conferences which I convened and over which I presided, commencing on the 5th November, 1954, and held on three subsequent dates, when I considered with my advisers the possibility of turning the Dublin Fever Hospital Board into a national rehabilitation centre. That suggestion, as the Minister's officers are aware, was put forward to me, as Minister, by certain members of the Board of the Dublin Fever Hospital. At the time I had already decided that the Dublin Fever Hospital should be the polio centre and it appeared to me worth considering whether it should not also, in addition to being the centre for polio-myelitis cases, be the centre for rehabilitation. I went into the matter fully, as the minutes which have been sent to me by the Minister disclose, and eventually I was unable to approve of the proposal for the reasons which transpired in these minutes.
I mention that in order to emphasise that I was conscious of the problem created in relation to the future of the Dublin Fever Hospital Board. I never contemplated that this Board should be abolished and that it should be merged in the new unified health authority. I have taken perhaps an undue length of time referring to this matter but I do so merely in order to permit myself as a Deputy to retain such reputation as I have. I made a statement which I believed in sincerely. The records in no way cause me to feel I was mistaken. I assert I was never conscious of any proposal to abolish the Dublin Fever Hospital Board. I accept that it may have been, as indeed the documents seem to show, included in some of the documents before me but it never had my approval. So far as I was concerned, I would have felt that the Dublin Fever Hospital Board and those associated with it would continue to play an important part in the health services as persons doing it from a charitable motive and under a voluntary dispensation.
I am happy, now that this matter has been raised in relation to the section of the Bill, that the objections which were voiced here by me and by others have been met, as they have been met by the Minister, in such a handsome way, and I hope that as a result the Minister will continue to have what every Minister for Health should have, the ready support in improving health services of this charitable kind of people who wish to help in a constructive way.