Adjournment Debate.

Schools Refurbishment.

I assume the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Martin, is taking this debate. I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle for allowing me raise this matter, which pertains to the need to refurbish the laboratories in the Christian Brothers' second level school in Midleton, County Cork.

Dr. Bill Harris, with whom the Minister is familiar, stated at a recent committee meeting that there is nothing more important than a hands-on approach to science. He said teaching science as a history and mathematics in a theoretical and abstract way will turn students off the subjects. He challenged Ireland to produce an education system that is the best in the world and which is measured by the performance of the students. If we do not get this right, third level research and third level education in general will not matter.

The Minister is probably aware that the school in Midleton was built in the early 1970s, 33 years ago, and virtually nothing has been done with the laboratory since then. The school applied for funding under the summer work scheme but the application was shot down and the school was very disappointed as a result. I note that under the scheme there are a number of criteria to be adhered to, one of which pertains to gas works. Projects are required to ensure that required safety standards associated with the use of gas in schools are satisfied. Those standards do not apply in the school in Midleton because it uses camping gas. The Minister, as a former Minister for Education and Science, will agree this is not acceptable.

I know the Minister has much interest in Midleton and I ask him to take an interest in this issue. He has visited the school and perhaps he will stress to his ministerial colleague in the Department of Education and Science the importance of funding the school as a matter of urgency. The two existing laboratories are in urgent need of refurbishment. The gas supply system, having been in place for 33 years, has broken down and needs to be replaced. The electrical system is inadequate, having given a great deal of trouble in recent years, and the plumbing fittings also need to be replaced. The benches need to be replaced. The display cabinets are of a DIY-type construction and are not up to standard. A third laboratory has long been a necessity, and this is accepted by the Department. It is important that action be taken very soon.

I see we have a changing of the guard across the way.

I am fully briefed.

Fully briefed. I worry when a Minister is late, states he is fully briefed and reads a prepared script in response to Deputies' contributions. Maybe the Minister of State will tell me if we are wasting our time coming to the House at all. My experience is that we hear no more about the issues we raise and that they are shelved somewhere in some report. I ask the Minister of State opposite to take a personal interest in this issue. The school laboratories in question are in urgent need of replacement.

I declare a personal interest in that I have two youngsters attending the school. I am sure the Minister of State will agree that, in this day and age, we need proper, up-to-date, safe laboratories. It is not good enough that a school laboratory has not been upgraded in 33 years. The Minister of State should dig out the relevant file in the Department tomorrow morning and ascertain what can be done for the Midleton Christian Brothers' school. In spite of the odds, the school won a prize in science. One wonders what great work it could achieve if it had proper facilities.

The Minister of State should note that the new science curriculum requires each class to perform at least ten experiments per year. This is impossible in the present circumstances in the Midleton school. It is just not on and it is also unsafe. The Minister should ascertain, as a matter of urgency, what his Department can do to assist this excellent school, which needs assistance after 33 years.

I reiterate the words of Dr. Harris, who stated that if we do not have a hands-on approach to science in second level schools, we are wasting our time and will be left behind no matter what we do in research or at third level. I am sure the Minster of State agrees with this and that he will do his utmost to facilitate and help. I will follow this matter carefully to see if I get a response from the Minister in the coming weeks. If I do, I will not be wasting everybody's time discussing this matter in the House. If I receive no reply, it will not be good enough. I await action on this matter.

Deputy Stanton never wastes words in the House and it is always worthwhile to raise on the Adjournment an important subject relating to science and education. I thank him for raising this matter as it affords me the opportunity to outline to the House the strategy of the Department of Education and Science on capital investment in education projects and the current position regarding an application from the Christian Brothers' secondary school in Midleton, County Cork, received by the Department, for the refurbishment of science laboratories.

The school in question is an all-boys' secondary school, one of four post-primary schools serving the needs of the Midleton area. Enrolments at the school have been declining in recent years. The current enrolment is 426, while the combined enrolment in the four schools in the Midleton area is 1,907 pupils.

The upgrade of the science laboratories is included in an application from the school authorities as part of an overall refurbishment project for the school. With an extension project such as that proposed for the school, the condition of existing laboratory provision is assessed as part of the preliminary analysis of need. Where existing provision is deemed to be inappropriate or otherwise inadequate, either a complete refurbishment is undertaken or, alternatively, brand new facilities are provided. While the need for improved accommodation at the school is acknowledged it was not possible to include provision for this project in this year's school building programme.

The 2004 school building programme at primary and post-primary levels amounts to €387 million and will deliver more than 200 large-scale projects. However, it was not possible to include all necessary projects in one year's programme. The proposed project at the Christian Brothers' secondary school in Midleton is one of a number, which has to be considered in the context of future capital allocation for the provision of improved accommodation.

When publishing the 2004 school building programme, the Department of Education and Science outlined that its future strategy would be grounded in capital investment based on multi-annual allocations. Officers from the Department are reviewing all projects that were not authorised to proceed to construction as part of the 2004 school building programme with a view to including them as part of a multi-annual school building programme from 2005. They expect to be in a position to make further announcements on this matter in the course of the year. The needs of the Christian Brothers' secondary school in Midleton will be considered in this regard.

Hospital Accommodation.

At a time when the Government is planning a pre-local election spending spree on health, which would see the opening of hundreds of new beds, the appointment of up to 1,500 additional staff and the commissioning of new hospital facilities worth approximately €400 million, the authorities in Tralee General Hospital, County Kerry, are being forced to close a ward for three months over the summer because they do not have enough money to allow for staff locums when they are on holidays. This means the waiting list for elective procedures, such as very simple ones for gall stones and varicose veins, will increase. No non-urgent patients will be seen in the out-patients section during the period. At present, there are up to 2,000 patients waiting to be seen in this category, many of whom have undiagnosed cancers. This unacceptable wait has led to a legal case because a cancer was not diagnosed in time.

In addition, the population of County Kerry swells during the months of July, August and September. The influx of thousands of tourists puts further pressure on the services at Tralee General Hospital. Surely, it is not fair, just or responsible to reduce services in what is Ireland's and one of Europe's best-known destinations at this time of the year.

The proposed ward closure is bad for patient care and divisive for the staff. With proper funding for the hospital, this closure would not be necessary. The hospital was under-funded by €2.5 million in 2003 and it is under-funded by at least €1.5 million in 2004. A day surgery ward was provided and equipped but lies empty and unused because there is no money to staff it.

Elderly patients with broken hips and patients who require major surgery for cancer have had their surgery delayed because of the lack of intensive care beds. These delays increase the mortality and the morbidity of the surgery. A high dependency unit has been equipped and would solve the intensive care problem, but there is no budget to staff it.

The hospital only recently received money for a third obstetrician, a general surgeon and an orthopaedic surgeon, years after similar appointments have been made in equivalent hospitals elsewhere. Indeed, those hospitals are now on the way to appointing a fourth consultant. The hospital is still without the services of a cardiologist despite that the death rate from cardiac diseases in County Kerry is the highest in the country. There are many other problems. When clerical staff go on holidays, for example, there is nobody to provide a locum so the correspondence and work piles up and awaits them on their return.

Patients in County Kerry do not receive fair treatment. This is a direct result of Government underfunding of Tralee General Hospital. There are no corresponding cuts in Cork and we do not see the same hardships there. Unfortunately, however, Tralee General Hospital, which serves County Kerry and a much larger population during the summer months, is subject to blatant discrimination. I hope the Minister of State will have good news for the staff, patients and consultants at the hospital and for the people of Kerry.

The Deputy will be aware that responsibility for the provision of services at Tralee General Hospital rests with the Southern Health Board in the first instance.

It is a feature of all acute hospital systems that some beds are out of use for short periods. Bed closures fluctuate over time and may arise for a variety of reasons such as staff leave and seasonal closures. Tralee General Hospital will close a 30 bed general ward from July to the end of September 2004. The Department of Health and Children understands that the seasonal closure of the ward in Tralee General Hospital will be similar to the seasonal closure of some beds that occurred in 2003. This seasonal closure will enable hospital management to co-ordinate annual leave for staff and thus reduce the level of locum cover needed while staff are on holiday.

The hospital prides itself on prioritising patient care and providing a high quality service. It has reported to the Department, for example, that when this ward closed last year, there were no delays in urgent or essential treatments. Staff rostered on this ward are assigned to other areas of the hospital during the temporary closure of beds.

The Department of Health and Children allocates funding on an annual basis to the Southern Health Board for the provision of health services. Distribution of this funding to individual hospitals in the region is a matter for the board. The haemodialysis unit in Tralee General Hospital has recently been extended. The unit now has ten dialysis stations and can cater for up to 40 patients. This greatly enhances the service available to renal patients at the hospital.

Increasing the bed capacity of the acute hospital system nationally is a key priority in improving access to acute services. More than 580 new beds have now been provided in hospitals throughout the country under the acute hospital bed capacity initiative. An additional investment of €1.7 million was provided to Tralee General Hospital to fund an additional 16 beds under this initiative. Approval has been given to the Southern Health Board for the appointment of a design team for the development of a new community nursing unit on the campus of Tralee General Hospital. This will represent an investment of €8.5 million when completed.

Base funding of €1.8 million has been provided in 2004 to Tralee General Hospital to progress the appointment of a number of permanent consultants who have been in place on a temporary basis for a number of years. These posts are in the specialities of obstetrics, general surgery, orthopaedics and anaesthetics. I am confident that the measures I have outlined and the additional investment in Tralee General Hospital is clear evidence of this Government's commitment to the further development of acute hospital facilities for the people of Kerry and throughout the country.

Córais Uisce agus Séarachais.

Gabhaim buíochas leis an Leas-Cheann Comhairle, as cead a thabhairt dom an cheist phráinneach seo faoi chúrsaí uisce a ardú.

Deirtear in eagrán an lae inniu den nuachtán gur tháinig laghdú de 1.6% an duine ar uisce inólta ar fud an domhain idir 2001 agus 2002. B’fhéidir go gceapann daoine gur fadhb í seo don Mheán Oirthear nó do thuaisceart na hAfraice, ach tá scéal práinneach i gConamara maidir le córas uisce chomh maith. D’ardaigh mé an cheist seo cupla uair eile sa Teach. Le déanaí d’iarr mé ar an Leas-Cheann Comhairle gnó na Dála a chur ar athló faoi Bhuan Ordú 31 chun droch-scéal chóras uisce an Cheathrú Rua agus Loch an Mhuilinn a iniúcadh. Chuireas an cheist, conas agus cathain a déanfar an infheistíocht de €13.2 milliún atá ar fáil le haghaidh córas nua uisce agus €3 milliún atá ar fáil le haghaidh córas séarachais a chur ar fáil do phobal na háite. Ní bhfuair mé freagra an uair sin ach, le cúnamh Dé, gheobhaidh mé freagra anocht.

Tamall ó shin, chuireas an cheist chéana ar an Aire Comhshaoil, Oidhreachta agus Rialtais Áitiúil, cathain a bhéadh córas uisce nua ag an gCeathrú Rua agus ar ghlac an tAire leis an bpráinn a bhain leis an méid truailliú atá ag tarlú i Loch an Mhuilinn, as a dtagann soláthar uisce don phobal. Dúirt an tAire go raibh a Roinn ag feitheamh ar doiciméad conartha ón gcomhairle don scéim seo a fheabhsódh go mór caighdeán an uisce sa cheantar. Ní leor an freagra sin. Ní bheimís anseo sa Dáil dá mbeimís ag feitheamh ar vótaí. Ní mór dúinn dul ar a dtóir. Seo ceist eile a bhainean le heaspa práinne. Caithfimid dul ar thóir thorthaí ó thaobh chóras uisce de freisin.

Iarraim arís inniu go socrófar clár ama agus plean críochnúil chun córas soláthar uisce agus córas séarachais a chur ar fáil do phobal an Cheathrú Rua, i gConamara, a bhíonn ag brath ar Loch an Mhuilinn. Tá an t-airgead ar fáil ach tá moill fós ar an obair. Séanann an moill seo cearta bunúsacha ar phobal na Gaeltachta.

Tháinig an cheist aníos ag saotharlann dátheangach faoi chaighdeán uisce inólta sa tír a d'eagraigh Diarmuid Mulcahy, ionadaí Glas a thagann ó Chonamara, ag Ard-Fheis an Chomhaontais Ghlais i nGaillimh le déanaí. I rith na saotharlainne, deineadh cur síos cruinn ar an scéal scannalach a bhaineann le córas uisce agus córas séarachais ar an gCeathrú Rua.

Thug mé féin agus mo bhean cuairt ar Loch an Mhuilinn agus chuir Diarmuid Mulcahy muintir na háite in aithne dom, coiste uisce an Cheathrú Rua san áireamh. Bhuaileamar le Peadar Mac Donncha, le Colm Ó Cuaig, le Tomas de Bhailís, le Rónán Ó Sé, laoch na páirce, agus, gan amhras, le Seosamh Ó Cuaig, i measc go leor daoine eile. Ba léir dom go raibh fadhb mhór i gceist nuair a sheasamar ar bhruach an locha agus chonaiceamar clúdach píopa séarachais a bhíonn a sileadh amach an truailliú nuair a bhíonn báisteach trom ann — agus isteach leis an dtrualliú i Loch an Mhuilinn. Tógtar uisce inólta, mar a tugtar air, as an loch 20 nó 30 méadar ón bpointe seo. Muna mbéadh an t-uafás clóirine a úsáidtear, bhéadh pobal na háite an-bhreoite ar fad.

Le déanaí, theip ar an bpumpa clóiríne — níorbh é an chéad uair é — agus eisíodh fógra práinne ag Comhairle Chondae na Gaillimhe ag rá le muintir na háite gan an t-uisce a ól nó, ar a laghad, é a bhruith agus a bheith an-chúramach. I ndáiríre, bhí daoine scanraithe roimhe sin. Ní hionann uisce úr glan agus uisce atá lán de chlóirín. Is ábhar nimhneach é clóirín go fad-téarmach agus ní cheart an droch-scéal seo a ghlacadh a thuilleadh.

Mhol an EU petitions committee gur cheart go mbéadh an scéal seo san áireamh i measc go leor scéalta eile faoi thruailliú uisce sa tír. Bhain na cásanna eile le scéimeanna uisce grúpa agus ní le córas poiblí. Fágann seo go bhfuil an cás seo eisceachtúil ar fad. Ba cheart don Aire Stáit insint dúinn cathain, go díreach, a caithfear an t-airgead atá ar fáil. Ní féidir an scéal a sheasamh a thuilleadh.

Tá sé i gceist infheistíocht €4.4 billiún ina iomlán a chur ar fáil do sheirbhísí uisce agus séarachais ar feadh thréimhse an Phlean Fhorbartha Náisiúnta, 2000-2006. As an méid sin, tá €3.8 billiún sonraithe do mhórscéimeanna poiblí. Tá an infheistíocht seo dírithe ar na seirbhísí uisce agus uisce drámhaoile is gá a chur ar fáil chun tacú leis an bhforbairt eacnamaíoch agus sóisialta, le táirgeadh na fostaíochta, le cothú na rátaí borrtha arda agus le caighdeáin arda timpeallachta a bhaint amach.

Fógraíodh clár infheistíochta do sheirbhísí uisce nua i mí Lúnasa seo caite i leith na tréimhse ó 2003 go 2005. Tá 737 scéim sa chlár, le luach €5.4 billiún san iomlán orthu. Is cúis áthais dom é go bhfuil Gaillimh ag baint tairbhe suntasach as an gclár seo. Tá 54 scéim i gceist, ar luach thar €465 milliún, don chathair agus don chontae. Tá maoiliú curtha ar fáil feisin faoi thionscnamh an talaimh dheisithe chun láithreáin chonaithe deisithe breise á chur ar fáil chun freastal ar riachtanais tithíochta in áiteanna éagsúla ar fud an chontae.

Gach rud san áireamh, is léir go bhfuil Gaillimh ag fáil a chion chóir den mhaoiniú atá ann agus go gcuirfidh na scéimeanna atá faofa go mór le constaicí ar an bhforbairt a bhaint as an tslí agus leis an bonneagar riachtanach a chruthú chun tacú leis an ngníomhaíocht tuarasóireachta, gnó, tionsclaíoch agus tithíochta sa chontae agus í a mhéadú.

Maidir le Ceathrún Rua, tá scéim uisce réigiúnach Chasla, a chuirfidh soláthar uisce nua ar fáil don Cheathrú Rua, sa chlár infheistíochta uisce 2003-2005. Tá tógáil na scéime le tosú an bhliain seo chugain. In Aibreán 2003, ghlac an Roinn le moltaí ó Chomhairle Chontae na Gaillimhe chun an réamhthuairisc ar an scéim a thabhairt suas chun dáta agus tá mo Roinn ag feitheamh anois leis an dtuairisc sin.

Tuigim go ndeimhníonn an tuairisc is deireannaí ón Ghníomhaireacht um Chosaint Comhshaoil, EPA, nach sáraíonn soláthair uisce na Ceathrún Rua na tomhaisí sláinte poiblí atá leagtha síos d'uisce inólta. Tuigim gur de bharr faidhb theicniúl a réitíodh chomh tapaidh as a b'fhéidir a bhí an córas uisce seo as eagar go sealadach i mí na Feabhra seo chaite. De réir tuairisc ón gComhairle chuig an Roinn, bhí torthaí ó tástálach ag an am ar uisce ag teacht ó Loch an Mhuilinn sasúil.

Ghlac mé le réamhthuairisc maidir le scéim séarachais na Ceathrún Rua i mí na Samhna 2003. Tá mo Roinn ag feitheamh anois ar doiciméad conartha ón gComhairle don scéim seo a fheabhsóidh go mór caighdeáin an uisce sa cheantar.

Bhí sé le bheith réidh i mí Feabhra.

Tá tógáil na scéime seo freisin le tosú an bhliain seo chugainn.

Tá an t-airgead ar fáil ón Roinn chun na scéimeanna seo a thógáil. Déanfar scrúdú práinneach sa Roinn ar na doiciméid ón chomhairle chondae a luaithe is a faightear iad anseo.

The Dáil adjourned at 8.55 p.m. until 12.30 p.m. on Wednesday, 5 May 2004.