Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Temple Street (Dublin) Children's Hospital.

11.

asked the Minister for Health if he intends to close Temple Street Children's Hospital, Dublin 1; if so, the proposals he has for alternative accommodation; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

38.

asked the Minister for Health if he will give details of the findings and recommendations of the working group on conditions at the Children's Hospital, Temple Street, Dublin 1; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

I propose to take Questions Nos. 11 and 38 together.

Deputies will recall that late last year, I assured this House that there was no threat of closure of paediatric services provided by the Children's Hospital, Temple Street. That situation has not changed.

In response to concern expressed about conditions at Temple Street, I established a group to examine the problems of the hospital. This group reported to me last December and confirmed that there is no evidence to suggest that patients attending the hospital receive anything other than the highest possible level of professional care. However, it would appear that there are difficulties in the management structure of the hospital. There are accommodation problems which require attention and I am having these matters addressed at present.

Is the Minister aware of the deplorable conditions that exist in the casualty and outpatients' department of this hospital due to overcrowding and so on? If so, what steps does he intend to take to improve those conditions? What is the cost envisaged in having such improvements carried out and when is it envisaged that they will be carried out?

I do not accept that the conditions are deplorable. I accept that the conditions may be inadequate to meet the needs of the hospital at the present time. We are now studying the problem to find the best solution. As I have said previously in this House, if we were to replace the accident and emergency facilities at a cost of £3 million, that would commit the Department to spending £30 million on the same site to replace the existing hospital. Whether that site or another site is the correct one, or what way to proceed is a matter that has to be decided on.

The Minister has said that he received a report last December. When does he hope to be able to make a decision as to what steps he will take to improve the facilities there? What is the time scale?

I would be anxious to see as rapid progress as possible but, as the Deputy is aware, there are a number of interested parties with whom I and the officials of my Department have to consult in order to make progress and those consultations are going on at present.

A brief supplementary question. Having seen the casualty and outpatients' department of this hospital, and knowing that there are over 50,000 admissions a year through the casualty ward, would he not accept that, going back as far as 1986, there were in his Department approved plans for the development of that casualty and outpatients' department which were almost at tender stage? Temple Street Hospital badly needs that development as part of its future.

Yes, there were plans to build an accident and emergency department but, as I say, at a cost of £3 million. Whether that would be a good health policy to adopt and commit the Department either to abandoning that in a couple of years if it is decided that that is not the correct site or locality for a hospital, or to replacing the hospital is the question that must be answered. That must be done in consultation with various interests. We do not have total control over Temple Street Hospital.