Written Answers. - Tallaght Hospital.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

595 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Health and Children the position in relation to the 120 staff at the Tallaght hospital whose positions have not been sanctioned by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1905/99]

The Deloitte & Touche report found that staff numbers on the hospital's payroll at 11 October 1998 were 139 wholetime equivalents above approved levels. This number included 40.7 commissioning staff which the hospital anticipated would be released by April 1999. The Department is currently awaiting the hospital's service plan for 1999 which should provide details on the current position and state how the hospital proposes to manage this situation.

The Deputy will appreciate that it would be inappropriate for me to comment further at this stage except that to say that I expect the hospital to comply with relevant labour legislation and best industrial relations practice in accordance with the industrial relations protocol agreed with the trade unions.

John Gormley

Question:

596 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will report on the situation of the 16 to 18 consultants' positions for the Tallaght Hospital; if there is sufficient funding available to sustain these posts in order to guarantee patients' care; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1906/99]

In 1997, the Department signalled that the hospital's priority list of 16 consultant posts would be given sympathetic consideration on a phased basis from 1998 to 2000. This was at a time when it was thought that the new hospital would open in Tallaght in January 1998 rather than June 1998. In the event, the schedule set out by the hospital in June 1997 envisaged all posts being filled by the end of 1999.

Four of the 16 posts have been approved by the Department – three in June 1997 – consultant gastroenterologist, consultant vascular surgeon and consultant physician with a special interest in respiratory medicine, and one in December 1997, consultant histopathologist. Funding was made available for these posts in the context of the 1998 and 1999 allocations.

It should be noted that the post of consultant vascular surgeon has not yet been approved for filling by Comhairle na nOspidéal as the Department's sanction was subject to agreement being reached by the hospital and St. James's Hospital on the provision of vascular surgery services at both hospitals. This agreement is still outstanding.

In line with the Deloitte & Touche report into the hospital, which has been accepted by the board of management of the hospital, it is not acceptable for the board to continue to seek Exchequer funding or to continue to maintain that it must be made available to develop the hospital until such time as it has demonstrated a capacity to create an effective management system for the present profile of the hospital, and operate at net expenditure levels which are accepted as appropriate for the size, nature and circumstances of the hospital, from its new location in Tallaght., no further development can take place at the hospital until the current difficulties are resolved.

However, on 18 December last I reached agreement with the hospital on a way forward. The implementation of the Deloitte & Touche report will now commence at the hospital and completion of this process will allow for the resumption of the planned phased development of services at the hospital.