That Dáil Éireann:
— the announcement on 13th June by senior members of the Health Service Executive (HSE) that the final stages of downgrading the 24-hour Emergency Department (ED) at Our Lady's Hospital, Navan (OLHN) would commence on 30th June, 2022;
— that HSE officials have acknowledged that Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda will see an increase in emergency patients and a projected increase of 2,100 ambulance transfers per year from Navan;
— that, in May 2022, the average wait time for EDs across the State was 11.2 hours, significantly above the Sláintecare target of four hours;
— that figures from May 2022 show that the average waiting time for admission to EDs at Connolly Hospital, Blanchardstown and Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda are 11.9 and 8.9 hours respectively, with 48 per cent of patients at Connolly Hospital and 31 per cent at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital waiting over 12 hours;
— that the last census shows that Meath is one of the fastest growing counties in Ireland with a population of over 195,000;
— the consistently high waiting times and ongoing overcrowding in EDs across the State and, only in the past two weeks, that the Mater University Hospital ED in Dublin was forced to advise members of the public to stay away;
— that EDs closed under the small hospitals framework, such as Ennis and Nenagh, were closed without the corresponding increase in capacity at University Hospital Limerick, which is one of the most chronically overcrowded hospitals in the State, and that senior management have publicly called for an elective hospital to be built in the area; and
— a press statement released by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) on the same day as the announcement by the HSE in respect of OLHN, stating that the body was left with no option but to consult with members in EDs across the State on potential industrial action due to the consistent overcrowding and lack of action by the Government, as there were 457 patients on hospital trollies that day;
— the contradictory statement from the Minister for Health on the 14th June that "No decision regarding the HSE's proposal for the transition of the Emergency Department at Our Lady's Hospital Navan has been agreed by this Government", despite the fact that the briefing event on 13th June to local Oireachtas members and media was arranged at the request of the Minister for Health, which is symbolic of the chaos and confusion at the heart of the current Government; and
— the Minister for Health's complete failure to address the chronic under capacity in primary, community and acute care services in the region, which puts people's health in danger; and
calls on the Minister for Health to:
— immediately clarify his position, and that of the Government, in relation to the future of the ED in OLHN;
— put forward proposals to protect and enhance emergency and critical services at OLHN and the wider Eastern Health region;
— immediately put forward plans to address overcrowding in EDs across the State, including investment in community and primary care, out of hours general practitioner care and realignment of care to reduce pressure on existing hospital EDs, including the emergency services at OLHN; and
— immediately engage with members of the INMO, convene the Emergency Department Taskforce as requested three times by the INMO, and commit to the implementation of the Emergency Department Agreement which was agreed between the HSE and the INMO.
I thank the Ceann Comhairle for the opportunity to bring forward this important motion on behalf of the people of Meath. I would like to thank my colleagues for their support, particularly Deputy Cullinane, our party spokesperson on health, and Deputy McDonald, our party leader. This motion calls on the Minister for Health and the Government to state clearly their position on the future of the emergency department at Our Lady's Hospital, Navan. It also calls on the Minister to put forward proposals to protect and enhance emergency and critical care services at Navan hospital.
Last week, the HSE announced the final stages of downgrading the emergency department at Navan hospital, to commence on 30 June. This is the wrong decision. Emergency departments across the State are suffering from ongoing and chronic overcrowding. In May, the average wait time for admission to emergency departments across the State stood at 11 hours, which is almost three times the Sláintecare target of four hours. It is clear that the hospitals closest to Navan do not have additional capacity. At Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, in May, 31% of patients waited over 12 hours in the emergency department for admission, while in Connolly Hospital, the figure was 48%. This is the reality in hospitals across the State. Now is not the time to reduce emergency care capacity in our hospitals and to even consider such a move in the current climate is baffling. Just this week Mr. Sean Egan, director of healthcare regulation and the lead HIQA inspector, pointed to the risks associated with such a move. He was speaking in the context of Limerick University Hospital, which is one of the most overcrowded hospitals in the State. Mr. Egan rightly pointed out that the closure of smaller emergency departments in the region has contributed to that situation. Why would we want to repeat the same mistakes again?
I pay tribute to the people of Meath who have fought tooth and nail to protect their emergency department for more than a decade. They have done so tirelessly and will continue to do so, if necessary. They have done so because they see the shambles caused by bad Government policy and they refuse to allow the same to happen to their community. We stand with them. The manner in which this was announced was a further insult to those people and a clear display of the chaos that lies at the heart of this Government. The day after the HSE made the announcement, it was directly contradicted by the Minister. The North East Doctor on Call service and healthcare unions have said that they were not consulted on the proposal. The Government Deputies in Meath have stood in silence or paid lip service to the issue. The people of Meath deserve better. They deserve more than mixed messages from the Government and the HSE. They deserve better than having to constantly take to the streets to battle to protect their health services, which they have been doing for over a decade now. They deserve accessible and high quality health services and clarity from this Government. They deserve to know, once and for all, where the Minister and his Government stands on the future of Navan hospital. Is the Minister committed to protecting and enhancing emergency and critical care services at Navan hospital? I hope that the Minister and his Government will give that commitment to the people of Meath tonight.