Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate

Wastewater Treatment

I realise the Minister of State will not have much of the detail I require in his response to me in respect of Irish Water, which is the competent authority in regard to the issue I am about to raise. I still believe this issue needs to get a hearing today. The issues raised in regard to Carrigrenan wastewater treatment plant and Belgooly in west Cork which my colleague, Deputy Christopher O'Sullivan, recently highlighted, are examples of a systemic failure in the ability of Irish Water to manage wastewater facilities in this country.

By way of background, Irish Water subcontracted the operation of the Carrigrenan wastewater treatment plan to a company called Northumbrian Water Projects, which is responsible for the running of the facility. The difficulties I, as a public representative, and the people who work and live adjacent to the plant have are the recurring issues with odour noise, in particular foul odours. When the €40 million plant was built in 2005, people were promised they would not even notice that the plant was there and that it would not be an inconvenience. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Since 2014, when I was elected as a county councillor, I have consistently raised the issues at the plant and have regularly logged numerous complaints, including my own, as advised by the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, and the local authority at the time. A number of local people have also done the same. After I requested that the EPA carry out an on-site odour survey last week, it detected issues around and on the site. It called into the plant where it also detected issues.

On foot of this incident, I requested that Irish Water supply me, as it is mandated to do in its licence, with the number and nature of the complaints it receives annually. Three weeks later, I have yet to receive a response from Irish Water. Thankfully, the EPA has given me its records. Those records, which were supplied to it by Irish Water, indicated that there were no odour complaints in 2018, 2019 or 2020 and only one noise complaint in 2019.

As I mentioned at the outset, I have submitted a number of complaints over the past few years and these obviously have not been recorded by Irish Water as it is statutorily mandated to do. Irish Water is, in this regard, conveying a complete disregard for me and the people affected by the plant.

The bigger issue I have is that if Irish Water is not logging complaints correctly as it is meant to do, and as in the case of Carrigrennan in Little Island and the same has proved to be correct in the case of Belgooly in west Cork, in how many other areas around the country is this requirement being flouted? It is very disheartening. Carrigrennan wastewater treatment plant is one of the largest in the country. All of the development proposed for the north side of Cork city in the next few years, all the housing, industry and commercial activity, is all contingent on the smooth running of that facility. That facility has been operating in breach of its nitrate emissions since 2015, under its EPA licence, and yet nothing has been done.

Irish Water is showing a complete disregard for both public representatives and local people. It is not handling complaints about noise and odour correctly, as it is mandated to do. Is Irish Water the competent authority to be governing these wastewater treatment plants? It is showing that it is incapable of doing so. Should another competent authority step in and do that job in light of what we are seeing here from Irish Water?

I thank Deputy Pádraig O'Sullivan for raising this matter and the issue of Belgooly. It certainly is a concern locally but a concern to us all nationally also. The Deputy will appreciate that the operation of Carrigrennan wastewater treatment plant is a matter for Irish Water. In turn, the Environmental Protection Agency ,EPA , as the environmental regulator, is responsible for setting quality standards and enforcing compliance with EU directives and national regulations for wastewater discharges.

Since 1 January 2014, Irish Water has statutory responsibility for all aspects of water services planning, delivery and operation at national, regional and local levels. Irish Water's primary function is to provide clean safe drinking water to customers and to collect, treat and return wastewater safely back to the environment, including the wastewater treatment plant raised by the Deputy today.

However, from inquiries which my Department has made with Irish Water I understand complaints about odour at Carrigrennan wastewater treatment plant are being investigated. I understand Irish Water has committed to putting in place some additional works, including optimisation of the odour management system, to address the issue. While there have been complaints about noise in the past, I understand that there have been no complaints regarding noise in recent months. I also understand, separately, that the Carrigrennan wastewater treatment plant is not currently compliant with the EPA discharge authorisation on the total amount of nitrogen emitted to environment. This is unconnected to any noise or odour issue.

Irish Water has informed my Department that since this plant was commissioned in 2004, the area to which it discharges, Lough Mahon, has been designated as a sensitive area under the Urban Wastewater Treatment (Amendment) Regulations 2004. This means that the wastewater discharge authorisation has increased requirements for nitrogen removal which was not provided for at the plant when originally constructed. Irish Water plans to carry out a modelling exercise on the receiving water in relation to this issue and will maintain contact with the EPA in this regard to ensure the plant operates in accordance with the appropriate authorisation.

As the Deputy will appreciate, the investment needs across our entire water system are considerable and will take a number of investment cycles to fully resolve. This will require significant and sustained investment from the State. The programme for Government commits to delivering an €8.5 billion investment identified under the national development plan in public water services. This will ensure the continued operation, repair and upgrading of Ireland's water and wastewater infrastructure to support social and economic development across the State and to ensure compliance with EU directives.

In more general terms, the Government's River Basin Management Plan for Ireland 2018-2021 outlines what Ireland is doing to protect and improve our waters. The next river basin management plan is currently being prepared by my Department and will be a critical plan period. Gabhaim buíochas.

I thank the Minister of State and appreciate the response but it raises a number of questions. Even the very fact the Minister of State’s answer has acknowledged that the plant is in breach of its nitrate emissions in terms of its licence since 2015, although it is not connected directly to odour and noise, is a recognition in itself of this and is not acceptable. Five years on Irish Water is still in breach of its licence, and nothing or very little is being done to remedy this.

The second point is that capital investment is required but Irish Water has not identified to us what the specific issues are, how it is going to address them, or most important, given us a timeline. That is the very least that is required if a plant of this nature, as important as it is to the development of the Cork Harbour region, is in breach of this licence. We should be given a definitive timeline and detail as to exactly how it will be upgraded.

As I said, there are about 6,000 housing units pencilled in for that area of Cork over the next few years, not to mention all of the industrial and commercial activity that will feed into this wastewater treatment plant. As I said, it is unacceptable that Irish Water is continuing to ignore public representatives and its responsibilities to agencies like the EPA in reporting these incidents.

While I appreciate the response, it gives me very little comfort in terms of resolving the problems any time soon. It reflects very poorly on Irish Water which thinks this is acceptable in Cork North-Central, in the case of the Carrigrennan plant, and, as mentioned earlier, in Belgooly in west Cork. I am afraid that is indicative of its logging of complaints right across the country. I will be interested to know if any other public representatives will do similar research over the coming months on other wastewater treatment plants in their areas, which are managed by Irish Water, because there is a long story here. Irish Water is not covering itself in any glory.

I thank the Cathaoirleach and the Deputy for his comments. It is agreed that Irish Water will need years and significant investment to address deficiencies in our water and wastewater infrastructure. Irish Water’s primary function is to provide clean safe drinking water to customers and to treat wastewater and return it safely to the environment. In providing these critical services Irish Water plays a role in enabling social and economic growth and protecting the environment as well as the health and safety of the public. Irish Water, as a single national utility, is taking a strategic and nationwide approach to asset planning, investment, and meeting customer requirements. Our priority objective is to bring and maintain public water and wastewater services to acceptable international benchmarks and verifiably independent monitoring and reporting. Irish Water has been successful in achieving a 44% reduction in the amount of untreated and inadequately treated wastewater being discharged into our rivers lakes and the sea since 2014.

However, I note the Deputy’s comments and will certainly follow up within our Department on the recording and logging of complaints. I will also seek a specific timeline and further detail from Irish Water on this specific item. It is important that we get clarification on this and more specifics to try to move this issue along. As the Deputy quite rightly outlined, this has been recurring and dragging on for far too long. Gabhaim buíochas.

Homeless Accommodation

Gabhaim buíochas leis an gCathaoirleach. I wish to raise the conditions for people who have become homeless and are living in emergency accommodation. We spend €2 million every week on private emergency temporary accommodation for people who have become homeless. Increasingly, there is a reliance on private for-profit providers when it when it comes to hostels for people who have become homeless. There is a complete lack of regulation and independent inspection of these private, for-profit hostels. As a result of that, we have seen some degrading and dehumanising rules enforced in some, but not all, the private, for profit hostels.

Some of these rules include, for example, people being told that they are not allowed to stop for a chat with other people who live there, which is an absolute and fundamental breach of their human rights. There has also been a report in the media this week of a privately-run hostel where a woman had died and the other people living in the hostel were instructed that they were not allowed to talk about the death. There have been other rules where people have been told when they are moving in that there is a limit on them to bringing in two bags only. This applies to people who may have to bring all of their possessions with them on becoming homeless and has resulted in them, in that distraught state, having to get rid of much of their limited possessions.

We know that people who are in vulnerable and are in vulnerable situations are often terrified to assert their rights and to make complaints.

They have already had a shattering experience and this is adding to it.

We know the HSE cut funding for community mental health teams that work with homeless people by 13%. According to research done by Dublin InQuirer and Amárach Research on people who are homeless and in hostels, 61% of respondents said that conditions and privacy were poor and 89% said that they had experienced bullying or intimidation. What is the Minister of State, and the Government, proposing to do about that? It is not good enough to say that this is a matter for the for-profit hostel providers, the Dublin Region Homeless Executive, DRHE, or the other homeless executives. The Government is responsible for this area. We are investing significant taxpayer funds into this accommodation and we have reports of very serious breaches of basic human rights taking place in taxpayer-funded accommodation for people who are in a vulnerable position and need to be supported and helped sometimes to access permanent accommodation. This type of treatment undermines the efforts people are making to get back into permanent accommodation. It is a form of shaming. It is utterly unacceptable. I do not believe there is a Deputy in this House, or a member of Government, who would stand over it. I ask the Minister of State directly what he, and the Government, are doing to sort out this issue and to bring independent inspection and regulation into for-profit hostels.

I thank Deputy O'Callaghan for making his point so well. Resolving homelessness is a priority of this Government and the programme for Government includes a range of commitments to support individuals and families experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness. The Minister, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, has established a high-level homelessness task force, including chief executives of a number of the largest homeless NGOs and the DRHE, which will feed into the implementation of the programme for Government.

Key to addressing homelessness is increasing the supply of housing and the programme for Government commits to increasing supply of public, social and affordable homes. In particular, we will increase the social housing stock by more than 50,000 units with an emphasis on new builds. However, as we address housing supply, there continues to be a significant number of households experiencing homelessness. The Government is committed to ensuring that these households are supported with emergency accommodation and receive the supports they need to identify and secure a home under the various social housing supports that are available.

Local authorities are responsible for the provision of accommodation and related services to individuals and families assessed as homeless. The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, as it will become, is responsible for the provision of a national framework policy, legislation and funding to underpin the role of housing authorities in addressing homelessness at a local level.

My Department also provides capital funding to local authorities and to approved housing bodies to support the delivery of emergency accommodation for individuals and families experiencing homelessness. Family hubs have been developed by housing authorities, in conjunction with their NGO service delivery partners, to provide emergency accommodation that is appropriate for families. There are now 33 family hubs in operation providing over 700 units of accommodation for families experiencing homelessness.

All individuals and families experiencing homelessness are supported by local authorities and their NGO service delivery partners to exit homelessness to a home. A national quality standards framework for homeless services has been implemented to ensure a consistent approach in the way local authorities and service providers respond to the needs of those experiencing homelessness and to improve the quality of services provided to those who need to access emergency accommodation while they progress through homeless services into homes. The framework aims to ensure that the services provided are well-organised, co-ordinated, integrated and focused on moving people into homes as quickly as possible.

The Covid-19 pandemic has had an impact on homeless services, as it has across all areas of society. The HSE has issued specific guidance for homeless group settings, which includes details on Covid-19 prevention control measures. My Department is working with local authorities and the HSE to ensure that necessary arrangements are in place to protect individuals and families accessing emergency accommodation. Significant additional accommodation has been put in place to support the appropriate levels of social distancing in emergency accommodation and to provide self-isolation capacity for confirmed or suspected cases of Covid-19.

I thank the Minister of State for the reply. I do not believe it is acceptable to say that this is a matter for the local authorities. As these are taxpayer-funded, albeit for-profit, hostels where these alleged abuses of people's fundamental human rights are taking place, it is not good enough for us to say that the local authorities are doing this and that there is a national framework. We need to know the reason there is not a robust independent inspection and regulation system in place to ensure that basic standards and quality are met.

On the point of addressing homelessness, why is it the case that in the national Housing First implementation plan, which targets Housing First as a policy to a very limited group of people, namely, rough sleepers and people who have used hostels long-term, the aim is to deliver only about half of the required tenancies for that targeted group over the course of the plan? Given that it is such a limited group of people, why could we not aim for 100%? In the Dublin area, only 273 Housing First tenancies are targeted. If that was doubled, at least for that very limited group, we could be making serious progress. That is something the Government could be doing and the Minister of State could use his influence to do. What is being done to ensure that basic human rights are met in these taxpayer-funded, Department-funded, for-profit hostels?

Disability Support Services

What is happening at St. Mary's Centre Telford - the nursing home, the assisted living housing and the disability services - and indeed what has already happened with the Caritas Convalescence Centre, in terms of the attempted execution of a tactical liquidation and a manufactured insolvency at the expense of the workers who worked providing these services and the residents and service users in the centre and at the homes there, is an absolute scandal. The residents are watching this debate now because what has gone on there threatens perfectly good and viable services specifically and uniquely provided for people with blindness and visual impairment and disability. It is an institution that has been operating since 1860, funded by the public but run by the Sisters of Charity who have decided, essentially using Covid-19 as a cover, to execute a tactical liquidation.

To give the Minister of State a sense of the feelings of the residents I will read out what some of those residents, who have been there, in some cases, 63 and 72 years, are saying:

We want our home back as we knew it. It has been so frightening and threatening having these liquidators here. How would you like it if you had the enemy in your home, your sanctuary? Our home should feel safe and unthreatening. Now it is like a prison. We are afraid to move. I've been here 62 years and my friend has been here 72 years. We've stopped smiling. Instead we are nervous, cannot sleep and it is affecting our mental health so much.

I do not have the time to read them all but the Minister of State will get the sense of fear and anxiety of these residents who are vulnerable, elderly women with visual impairment. They are facing their home and their community being broken up and all of the workers who provided those services being simply dumped.

The Government needs to step in and do something about this.

The social housing element was originally financed by Dublin City Council and the services were funded by the HSE but the Sisters of Charity-owned companies that run the centre have manufactured an insolvency and are looking for a liquidation that they should not get. This is because the insolvency is manufactured. The companies claim they have liabilities associated with refurbishing the place to bring it up to certain standards. They claimed that the HSE funding might not continue and that they could not afford the redundancies, but the redundancies are happening only because St. Mary’s triggered them - it did not have to – in a nursing home that was actually Covid-free, was run perfectly well and provides excellent services and a home to the residents. This is occurring when the company has €750,000 in the bank. If the redundancies go through, it will cost the taxpayer nearly €1 million. The request is for the Government and the HSE to step in and support the application made for an examiner to be brought in to save the jobs and services and prevent the trauma and anxiety that is now being inflicted on the vulnerable women. I ask the Government to step in. It has the power. It should get the HSE to do the right thing and stop this scurrilous behaviour by the companies owned by the Sisters of Charity.

I thank Deputy Boyd Barrett for raising this important issue. A key principle underpinning Government policy is to support older people to live in their own home with dignity and independence for as long as possible. In recent years, there has been a shift in the focus of healthcare provision towards home care. Home support services are key in facilitating older people to remain at home and with our ageing population will become increasingly important. There will, of course, always be people whose needs are best met in a residential care setting or other supported housing model such as the services provided at St. Mary's nursing home and supported housing in Telford.

The relevant Minister of State, Deputy Butler, is aware of the difficult decision to close taken by the board of management of St. Mary's, which is owned by the Sisters of Charity. On 23 July, the HSE was advised that St. Mary's Centre (Telford) Limited was placed in voluntary provisional liquidation by order of the High Court at the request of its board of directors. The HSE advised that this was not an expected or anticipated action and was contrary to what the board of management had been advising the HSE up to the previous week. Provisional liquidators were appointed and they contacted the HSE regarding client and staff welfare on 27 July. It is understood that HIQA was also aware of this issue. At the time, there were 19 nursing home clients and 22 disability clients in residence at the centre.

The HSE has notified the Department that, as of 8 September, there were 22 residents remaining within the service, three persons resident in Loyola House and 19 remaining within the disability independent-living unit and apartments. The HSE is working closely with the provisional liquidators and HIQA to ensure all remaining clients are adequately and appropriately cared for until the High Court deliberates further on the application to liquidate the company by its board of directors.

At the High Court hearing on 8 September, an application was made on behalf of a group of employees, former employees, residents and their families to consider putting the company into examinership. This matter is due to be heard on 23 September.

The HSE remains conscious of the vulnerability of the residents at the centre and of the anxiety and stress this set of circumstances has caused for them and their families and that, through ongoing further engagement, it is hoped that such anxiety and stress can be substantially alleviated. The HSE is continuing to fund the provisional liquidators to enable care provision to be maintained for the remaining clients at the centre.

The HSE has also engaged on site, effective from Thursday, 3 September last, to review the service and is committed to supporting services provision and to assistance in respect of client care at the request of the provisional liquidators, who are legally fulfilling the role of provider at this point. An independent advocacy service is currently being utilised where residents require and consent to such representation or assistance.

I heard the Deputy's frustration over the fear and anxiety of the workers and patients. He has asked the Government to step in. I understand the HSE has engaged with the INMO regarding the staff at St. Mary's. As the staff are not HSE employees, the matter of redundancy is for the liquidator to deal with.

I mean no disrespect to the Minister of State but it is very disappointing that the senior Minister is not here to deal with this very serious matter.

Engaging with liquidators and the INMO in terms of redundancies is just not good enough in this situation. Let me finish reading the comments of some of the residents:

Let us have our lives back so we can laugh again. To break up our community and friendship would be akin to death. We have not committed any crime. What have we done to deserve this?

What the residents want is to know that they can continue to live in their homes. That means retaining the assisted-living housing, the community, the disability services and the nursing home, which are perfectly good. All the HSE has to do is say it will support an examinership. It should not allow a liquidation to go through that is a tactical liquidation based on manufactured insolvency. This is an institution that was financially washing its own face. Its so-called insolvency was manufactured on the basis of notional redundancy liabilities that would not exist unless the workers were being let go. If the workers are not let go and the services are maintained, there is no liability. The HSE has made it clear that it was willing to provide funding to meet the necessary standards and, indeed, the companies had money in the bank in any event so there is no need for these services to close. There is utterly no need to move the elderly residents who have lived in the homes for decades and to cause stress and anxiety. We do not want words about engagement and all the rest of it; the Government must instruct the HSE to keep the services, homes and community in place. If it decided to do this, and if there were sufficient political will, the anxiety and fear of the residents could be prevented, vital services for the disabled and visually impaired could be maintained and the jobs of the workers, who have provided dedicated service for the service users for many years, could be saved. That is what the Minister of State needs to do and we need a commitment to that effect.

I thank the Deputy for raising this issue. On behalf of the Minister of State, Deputy Butler, I would like to reaffirm that the decision to close St. Mary’s was a course of action solely undertaken by the former board of directors. I hear the Deputy loud and clear that the residents want to continue to live in their homes with dignity. The Deputy wants the services maintained. He acknowledged the great work done by the staff. Provisional liquidators have been appointed and the HSE has confirmed that it is working closely with them and HIQA to ensure all remaining clients are appropriately cared for. At a High Court hearing on 8 September, an application was made on behalf of a group of employees, former employees, residents and their families to consider putting the company into examinership. This matter is due to be heard on 23 September.

Hospital Services

I want to speak about the ongoing issues in the geriatric ward in Cork University Hospital. I also want to talk about patient and staff safety. For the past four days, I have been listening to stories on "The Neil Prendeville Show" on RedFM about what witnesses have experienced in the geriatric ward. I am sure the Minister of State is familiar with the station.

In the past number of days, I have received numerous pieces of information about managers at the top level not coming down onto the floor and inspecting the place. I have heard about issues where if front-line staff, including nurses, seek help, or tell their managers they cannot cope, they are classed as troublemakers. How does one run a service when the top and the middle do not link up, never mind bottom?

Obviously, the issue here is long-term underfunding. Recruitment has been an awful issue here and there have been many health and safety issues. I listened to one poor woman who said there was no seating for the patient in the shower unit in the geriatric ward. It was a simple little handrail, that was it. The same lady witnessed a gentleman mopping the floor. Once he had finished mopping the floor, he proceeded to clean the shower tray with the same mop. Health and safety seems to be a big issue there.

I want the Minister of State to investigate a number of issues. The number one issue is that I have heard the conditions in this ward are absolutely appalling. It is 2020 and we are letting down our elderly and most frail. I listened to another woman who said she will never go back to that ward or even go to the hospital. She is in her 80s and said she will take her chances if she breaks something. If she can get to her armchair in her living room, she will happily die there. Those are not my words and, as I said, I have listened to this debate on the radio for past number days. I am not taking the side of patients and families, or staff and their families. I am here to ask the Minister of State to investigate, so we can help everybody here, that is, the staff and patients in Cork University Hospital, CUH.

I want to raise the issue of penny-pinching. Again, it is not picking on particular staff but this is down to contracts and management whereby agency staff are given time slots of two minutes to clean area A, five minutes for area B, and so forth. It is totally inadequate. Then we wonder why people are getting sicker when they go to hospital.

Another issue I wish to raise in this short time, which I will revisit, is that of the so-called unannounced visits by HIQA. Many of these so-called unannounced visits are not unannounced. I learned today that the so-called unannounced visit to the Cork geriatric ward is next Monday. I have been told that staff will be brought in over the weekend to move trolleys into empty wards and clean the place before this visit. How are we to help patients and ensure the safety of staff who genuinely want to work there when nobody is taking responsibility? If HIQA is not doing its job properly, then somebody has to be responsible for it. That is what I want to get to the bottom of here. We need to help everybody in this scenario, that is, the staff and patients in CUH. I hope to God it is not happening in other places around the country but if this is what I have been told about so-called unannounced inspections, then I fear there could be a domino effect.

I thank the Deputy for raising this issue and giving me the opportunity, on behalf of the Minister, Deputy Donnelly, to provide an update to the House regarding concerns over hygiene and infection control standards a Cork University Hospital's geriatric unit.

First, I assure the Deputy that infection prevention and control is generally well-developed in acute hospitals. Indeed, prior to the pandemic all acute hospitals had outbreak teams in place. However, while it was clear that systems were in place to manage outbreaks and control further spread of the virus within hospital settings, questions arose as to the whether there was sufficient focus an outbreak prevention.

Given the insidious nature of the coronavirus, at its meeting on 31 March NPHET accepted that more can and should be done. It mandated the implementation of a suite of 29 measures to prevent transmission of the virus in acute hospitals to slow the demand for specialised healthcare, safeguard risk groups, protect healthcare workers and minimise the export of cases to other healthcare facilities and the wider community.

The HSE has established an overarching governance structure to provide oversight for all issues related to Covid-19 infection control. In addition, the Department of Health has been working with the hospital groups to implement these NPHET mandated measures across a number of different action areas, namely, governance, risk management, outbreak management, staff symptom declaration, staff segregation and adoption of social distancing guidelines.

One of the measures mandated by NPHET was a desktop review by HIQA of acute hospital infection prevention and control preparedness for Covid-19. The report of that review has now been published. While this report highlighted the progress that has been made in recent times to expand infection prevention and control, IPC, capacity and capability at acute hospitals, deficits in IPC capacity were identified. Following discussions in the Department and with the HSE, it was agreed that there was a need to consider an integrated approach to address IPC deficiencies across acute hospital and community sectors. In that regard, I am pleased, on behalf of the Minister, Deputy Donnelly, to inform the House that funding of almost €4 million was recently approved to address immediate IPC requirements in acute hospital and community services. This will help to minimise and mitigate the risks of staff, patients and service users and facilitate the delivery of safe health services.

In Cork University Hospital, the care of the elderly service is delivered on Ward 1A, which is a 35-bed ward. With regard to hygiene and infection control standards, the HSE has advised that cleaning staff are based in the ward from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. with hygienic service available throughout the night as necessary. The HSE has also advised that monthly hygiene audits are carried out along with annual environmental hygiene audits and that prevention and control of healthcare associated infection training is provided on a continuous basis for all staff which has been enhanced throughout the Covid-19 period.

I thank the Minister of State for his reply. He knows I am straight-talking. Can we stop blaming Covid-19 for this? I never mentioned Covid-19 in my opening remarks. Some of this is historic and goes back to 2016. We cannot blame Covid-19 and we probably cannot blame Brexit.

It is my job as a public representative to say to the Minister of State that if a patient or staff member is not being fully supported and his or her health, well-being, mental health and physical safety is being put at risk, it has nothing to do with Covid-19. It has to do with management of the area, misrepresentation and what I said to the Minister of State about so-called unannounced visits. The Minister of State mentioned risk management, outbreak management, staff symptom declaration and staff segregation. We are not talking about that but about elderly patients being left in their soiled beds without help. We are talking about patients who cannot feed themselves. When the server puts the plate on the table, walks away and comes back in an hour later, he or she sees the plate is still full and assumes the patient is not hungry. Certain protocols are not being properly pushed here and the public are aggrieved and they are blaming the staff who are overworked and under-resourced.

I ask the Minister of State to forget Covid-19 as an excuse. One of the safest places on the planet is supposed to be one's hospital but the patients and the staff here are not being looked after. Will the Minister of State carry out a full review and find out if this so-called announced HIQA visit is actually happening next Monday? Is that true? If it is true, it is lying to the Minister of State. I have said that to other Ministers over the years in regard to mental health. The Minister of State cannot then do his job properly. He cannot come into this House and say to me that this is what he has been told. It might be what he has been told but he should listen to four days of people ringing in to a radio show and listen to mothers, patients and staff crying. However, he has said to me that we will blame Covid-19, throw in a few measures, thank HIQA and NPHET and everything will be grand but it is not grand.

I ask the Minister of State one more time on behalf of the staff in the unit, the patients and their families to investigate with HIQA and who put out that report. If it is true, who said that there is an unannounced visit by HIQA into ward 1A in CUH? There will be staff there over the weekend to sort things out and I can guarantee that there will be a chair in the shower, there will not be a smell out of the toilet bowl, people will be fed and everybody will be happy. If that is true, we should be ashamed of ourselves.

We are here to represent people and get things right. I am not here long enough, but the Minister of State can hear that I am angry. I am fed up of getting these one-liners. It is not his fault and it is not a personal attack on him, but on the system. I do not trust the HSE or HIQA, but I trust the parents and the service users who have had their testimonies on air. I trust the staff and their testimonies on air. Somebody must be telling the truth and somebody must be telling lies, which is why I am asking the Minister of State to investigate it. I believe that the staff, the patients and their families are telling the truth. The Minister of State is being misinformed by HIQA and the HSE.

I will bring the Deputy's observations back to the Minister, Deputy Donnelly. The upset of the staff, patients and their families has been noted. The Deputy also called for various protocols to be introduced. He also spoke about an unannounced visit by HIQA that may happen on Monday. I will try to clarify those issues for him. It is now clear that in order to safely and sustainably manage the provision of the health service into the future, significant investment will be required to build the IPC capacity in the coming years. We want to ensure our health service provides safe, quality and timely care. It is a priority for the Government. In that regard the HSE has provided assurance that all hygiene standards are adhered to on ward 1A and throughout Cork University Hospital. I will bring the Deputy's views and concerns to the Minister. I again thank him for raising this important issue.