I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle for allowing me to raise this important issue on the Adjournment tonight and the Minister for coming in to answer, I hope, positively.
Several people have contacted me recently regarding the fact that they must travel for dialysis to Dublin's Beaumont Hospital, which is already overcrowded and working 24-hour shifts to keep up with demand. One patient from Monaghan had to travel 180 miles three days per week, and he is well over 80. That is totally unnecessary. Another patient living just a few miles from Cavan General Hospital had to leave home at 2.30 a.m. three days per week for dialysis at 5 a.m., arriving home some time after midday. This is costing €600 or €700 in taxis. However, I welcome the fact that the patient in question is now back in Cavan as a result of some unfortunate deaths as well as transplants.
I ask that the necessary funds be provided for Cavan General Hospital to ensure that an extra shift can be put in place to save people from having to make that unnecessary journey three days per week. There was a tremendous effort to have the renal dialysis ward set up in Cavan, and it provides a great service, dealing with 45 patients. We seek an extra shift, which is absolutely logical. I have a letter here from one lady who wrote directly to the Minister concerned. She said that the extra shift in Cavan General Hospital would help with the desperate problem of overcrowding in Beaumont as well as the unnecessary travelling by people in need of dialysis from the Cavan-Monaghan area. She had to travel 170 miles to and from Dublin three days a week, something that is very hard on one, physically as well as medically, and I am sure it is worse for older people — the lady in question is just 49. Older people, several in their 80s and with other serious or related illnesses, find it impossible to understand why they must make that journey.
If the money spent on travelling expenses were put to better use by supplying the extra shift in Cavan, it would make a huge difference to that person and all other patients travelling from the Cavan-Monaghan area. The patient went on to say that, as far as she could see, the problem was the result of bad management of resources in the health board area. At one stage, we were told that we would get a new consultant in Cavan and that that was the reason for the delay. Is the consultant position all that important? The hospital has excellent trained nursing staff. In the three months that the lady was on dialysis, she never once saw a consultant in Dublin.
I have a letter from the person in charge of another case in Cavan, who said that the consultant will be appointed in March and that the hospital may re-examine the situation then. However, the issue is urgent. There is a failure to use resources properly. The Cavan unit is brilliant and everyone is very happy with it. I cannot emphasise enough the excellent service that it has given to those patients from Cavan-Monaghan who have been able to use it. It is hard to explain to someone why a unit in Beaumont can work 24 hours per day, with the person having to travel during the night to use it, when a unit is available in Cavan. It is a matter of rostering the necessary personnel and easing the load on Beaumont, the travelling expenses and the unnecessary pressure on patients and families that the journey imposes.