asked the Minister for Health (a) the date on which the consultative council on the general hospital services was set up, (b) the number of meetings held, (c) the organisations or people consulted as regards the central midlands areas, (d) if the council took into consideration possible population trends, with the probability of industrial estates in some towns in the midlands on major lines of communication and (e) if he is satisfied that one general hospital can cover the central midlands area.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Consultative Council on General Hospital Services.
(a) The Consultative Council on the General Hospital Services was set up on 21st December, 1967. (b) The plenary council met on eighteen occasions, including five meetings of two or three days' duration on each occasion. In addition five subcommittees were set up which met on a total of twenty-five occasions. (c) There were no specific organisations or individuals consulted in regard to the central midlands or any other area. It is explained in the report that because of its origin as a consultative council rather than a commission and the urgency of its task, the council was unable to hear any formal witnesses. (d) The council took into consideration possible population trends to the extent that information on this was available. (e) I am satisfied that one general hospital of adequate size could cover the central midlands area. I should add that I have accepted, in principle only at this stage, the scheme of hospital re-organisation proposed in the Consultative Council's Report and that the detailed recommendations relating to specific areas will have to be the subject of further examination and consultation with the interests concerned before decisions are reached on long term developments.
Is the Minister taking Nos. 30 and 31 together?
I only took No. 30.
Does the Minister not think it peculiar or was it merely a coincidence that each of the surgeons or consultants who were on this consultative council got a hospital for their own area? Is the Minister aware that there were eight consultants from Dublin? They have four hospitals, two regional and two general hospitals. There were two from Cork. They have a regional hospital and a general hospital in their own area. There was also a consultant from Limerick and from Galway. Perhaps we might agree with the provision of hospitals in those places on account of population. Is the Minister further aware that there were surgeons from Castlebar, from Sligo and from Tralee, and they have one for each of their areas? Was it arranged by the Department in advance and were the people selected and put on the body or did each person plump for his own area irrespective of the rest of the country?
I can assure Deputy L'Estrange that he is doing nothing to benefit the area he is alleged to be or thinking he is benefiting, by this extraneous thought.
How can the Minister be satisfied that one hospital in the Midlands is enough to service that whole, vast area? There is a concentration of five hospitals on the east coast within a radius of 20 miles. In the south there is a concentration of five in Minister alone. For the rest of Leinster there is only one. Would the Minister not agree it would be better to have one hospital in Mullingar and one in Portlaoise—both of which are on main roads—whereas Tullamore, where the Minister envisages having a hospital, is impossible to get at due to the winding, bad roads. Would the Minister not consider it better to have two hospitals, one in Mullingar and one in Portlaoise, than to have sick people transported 50 or 60 miles?
We cannot have a speech on the hospitalisation of the country.
The arguments in the relevant paragraph of the council's report set out very fairly the reasons why, in the opinion of the council, the general hospital should be situated at Tullamore, rather than elsewhere, having regard to the fact that they also recommend a general hospital for Cavan town and for Waterford. As I pointed out earlier I have accepted the report in principle and the Government have accepted it also. The arguments in general in favour of the council's report are unanswerable. As to the exact location of the hospital concerned, there will have to be prolonged discussion to work out the details, because in the last analysis what the council recommends and what I want to do is to provide the best possible service for the people in the area.