At the weekend, The Sunday Business Post, in particular, reported leaks from the recommendations of the trauma steering group that was established by the then Minister for Health, Deputy Varadkar, last year. It essentially identified nine accident and emergency departments that are under threat of being downgraded, being open for shorter periods or closure of some kind and the removal of trauma facilities from them. Obviously, this has caused concern across the country, including in Cavan, Naas, at Portiuncula Hospital in Ballinasloe, Mullingar, at St. Luke's in Kilkenny, Clonmel, at Mercy Hospital in Cork and Portlaoise. At all emergency departments across the country there is incredible overcrowding. Even today, more than 400 people are on trolleys. There was a time when the rows were about whether there would be an emergency department in a county. Based on this report, there will be regions without emergency departments if this trend continues. In the east, there is the potential for nothing in between Waterford and Dublin, with Kilkenny and Wexford taken out. In the midlands, there will be nothing between Tullamore and Tallaght in Dublin. The problem is that emergency departments in Dublin simply cannot cope and are bursting at the seams. In Cork, there have been closures in the South Infirmary, Mallow and Bantry down through the years.
The point I am making is that there has been significant reconfiguration already. Some medics will say that politicians will oppose this and oppose that.
There needs to be a re-evaluation of all of this, and of the trend, because by the time we are finished everybody will be going to Dublin for an emergency facility or a department. While there must be professional medical input, there must also be balance, common sense and an evaluation of what has happened already because there is incredible overcrowding. Last year, I visited Galway University Hospital, where there is an appalling vista. As it has just two cubicles for paediatric patients, it is completely incapable of dealing with what it has already been asked to deal with as part of the reconfiguration along the western seaboard, with the hospital in Letterkenny in Donegal having to shift people down to Galway University Hospital, which simply cannot cope. The major refurbishment it requires is not even in the capital programme that runs up to 2021. It cannot possibly cope.