This issue is very important and I thank the Ceann Comhairle for placing it on the agenda.
Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, is the major acute hospital for the region and the majority of regional services are based there. The hospital represents a critical mass of consultants, doctors and nurses for the region and its future is in doubt following the Teamwork report. I tabled the motion because I want to know the nature of the process being used to determine the location of the new acute hospital the Health Service Executive proposes to build in the north east. This process must be transparent and open. What criteria will be used? Will the public have direct access to the consultants who will produce a report and make a recommendation?
Members of the public have a democratic right to express their views and have an input in the democratic process. Political accountability for the eventual decision is needed at Cabinet level. Having met last week with the chairperson of the implementation group and the acute hospital manager for the north east, Mr. Lyons, I rang the HSE yesterday to ask what process would be used in selecting a site for the new hospital and how members of the public could secure direct access to the consultants. I was informed by the HSE that the matter was "under consideration" and it could not guarantee that a public consultation process would take place. It could not tell me what was the truth of the matter.
A lack of transparency, accountability and openness lies at the heart of the Government. People in Drogheda are extremely angry and concerned that the formula for progressing the process does not include a procedure to allow them to make representations regarding the consultants' report.
The recent HSE report examining the current level of services at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda did not consider as a potential hospital site a property owned by the Medical Missionaries of Mary and located adjacent to the Lourdes Hospital site, nor did it examine the possibility of relocating two primary schools immediately adjacent to the hospital. It did not consider using GAA grounds, which are currently up for sale, 20 acres of land owned by the HSE in the area or soccer grounds located immediately adjacent to the hospital. The Health Service Executive has not objectively considered Drogheda as a site for the new hospital or examined all available sites immediately beside the hospital.
People in Drogheda are up in arms and deeply concerned that the hospital will be moved to wherever our political masters or the unaccountable and undemocratic Health Service Executive decide. They are extremely angry and will vote on this issue in the forthcoming general election.
I make my comments without knowing what will be the Minister of State's response. People in south County Louth and Drogheda and the staff of 1,500 who work in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, will not be moved by an undemocratic and unaccountable HSE.