Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Lighting and Heating Equipment.


asked the Minister for Health if he is satisfied that all hospitals and institutions which provide resident care for people needing treatment are equipped with auxiliary lighting and heating equipment for use in emergencies.

Most acute hospitals have generators which can provide electricity during emergencies. These generators enable heating and lighting to be maintained. Some long-stay institutions also have emergency generators. The provision of auxiliary lighting and heating in residential institutions is primarily a matter for the health boards or voluntary bodies concerned. Discussions have been held with the chief executive officers on difficulties which arose during recent interruptions of electricity supplies. While, in general, essential needs were met, there were some cases where hardship occurred. Discussions will continue with a view to preventing this as far as possible in the future.

I appreciate what the Minister has stated but some institutions do not have this auxiliary equipment. It is a rather terrifying experience to go to a hospital during an emergency and to think that if the current goes off people will die. I am not saying who is at fault here but I would appeal to the Minister even to introduce legislation so that all these institutions will be given sufficient money to provide auxiliary equipment and surmount the terrible fear of anybody visiting a patient who is on a breathing machine that if at any moment the current fails that person may die.

The Deputy's appeal does not fall on deaf ears, but I would repeat that all the regional and county hospitals have emergency generators and most of the psychiatric hospitals have generators as well. There are some non-acute hospitals, district hospitals and institutions for the aged which have not got generators but I think the public will recognise and appreciate, as I do, the efforts of the ESB in this respect—and I would like to thank them here publicly for that —in that they maintained a supply in regions where there are hospitals. They could not do it and it would not be practical to do it, in respect of small nursing homes and institutions of that kind, but I certainly, as Minister for Health and as an individual, was concerned at the effect on hospitals of the recent strike and the withdrawal of power. Fortunately there were no fatalities due to the non-supply of electricity but, because of our experience, the matter is being discussed urgently with the CEO's to ensure as far as possible that generators will be supplied. As the Deputy will understand, it will be a very costly item, but as regards heat and light patients in hospitals, both surgical and psychiatric and also aged patients should naturally have priority.

I appreciate the Minister's concern but we cannot count the cost where life is in danger and we should get the money somewhere.

I agree with the Deputy, but I am just pointing out to the Deputy the practical difficulties of providing all at once. For instance, to provide fire escapes in hospitals, which is vitally important as well, would cost millions and millions of pounds. We can only provide these facilities as resources are available.

I would urge the Minister to do everything possible.