It is not so easy to discuss this Bill if one is to follow exactly on the lines set out by Senator The McGillycuddy of the Reeks. The Senator more or less agreed, in the first instance, that the Bill was right in principle and that contributions might be allotted from the proceeds of sweeps to relieve county hospitals and to provide equipment for them. His amendment sets out to establish that no portion of the proceeds resulting from sweepstakes should be allocated for that purpose. I have to argue on the basis of the Senator's amendment, on the basis that there will be no appointment at all of the proceeds of the sweeps between the county and the district hospitals.
Senator The McGillycuddy of the Reeks said that we should examine this question impassively on the basis of definite figures. I entirely concur in that respect. In so far as we have that respect. In so far as we have figures, they should be thoroughly examined. The Senator gave three reasons why his amendment should be carried. He gave three reasons in opposition to the apportionment of a certain percentage of the sweepstakes money for the purposes set out in the Bill. He declared that the proposed percentage was too high. I cannot argue that, because the amendment does not set it out. If anyone wants to argue the question of a too high percentage it will have to be argued in a different way, because it raises entirely new matter. I have to follow the exact lines of the amendment. The Senator stated that his second objection was based on the ground that the direction to the Minister is too wide. I think the direction is specific enough. Section 6 of this Amending Bill sets out:
One-third of the available surplus in any sweepstake held under the Principal Act shall be paid to the Minister for Local Government and Public Health and shall be applied by him in such manner as he shall think fit...
I think that is a specific and a sufficiently direct instruction. I think it would be impossible to tighten it up any more than that. It would be impossible for this House, through the medium of this Bill, to say to the Minister for Local Government that a certain proportion of the moneys allocated shall go for the provision of X-ray apparatus in a certain hospital. It would be quite impossible for us to suggest things in that way, and all we can give is a general direction.
I followed the statement of Senator The McGillycuddy of the Reeks with considerable interest. I am really surprised at the amendment he has proposed. I think the Seanad would be well advised to leave well enough alone. There should not be any more interference with sweepstakes. They are serving their purpose and they are making admirable progress. A sufficient amount of money is being provided through the medium of the sweepstakes. I would like to get back to the conception originally underlying sweepstakes. I could understand a case being made in support of the amendment along the lines that this Bill cut across the conception originally underlying sweepstakes. I could understand an objection being raised on the ground that the allocation of money for various county hospitals was not in a worthy cause. Objections of that type could well be understood.
Let me come back now to the idea underlying the introduction of sweepstakes in this country. I have read all the debates upon the measures put before the Oireachtas in relation to sweepstakes. I have talked to representative men and to members of the Sweepstakes Committee. I find that the idea underlying the initiation of sweepstake legislation was to prevent certain existing hospitals in Dublin City from going into bankruptcy. That was the position then existing. What did they set out to do? They set out, first of all, to wipe off the liabilities of these hospitals. There were six or eight hospitals named and the liabilities amounted to £60,000 or £70,000. The second object was to provide the hospitals with certain equipment and to give them, so to speak, a fresh start. That was rather an ambitious programme. I may say that the idea originally conceived has been more than realised; it has been exceeded to an enormous extent. Originally they did not require very much money, speaking generally. Perhaps £100,000 or £200,000 would be quite sufficient to meet the needs of the hospitals. The hospitals on whose behalf the sweepstakes idea originated have already secured in round figures £1,250,000.
We are faced now with a totally different problem to that which confronted us when the sweepstakes originated. We have to look upon the matter from an entirely fresh aspect. The suggestion now is that, having done what we set out to do in regard to certain hospitals, we should do something for the county and district hospitals, which urgently require assistance. That is all that is attempted in this Bill. Those of us who cast votes in connection with the sweepstakes legislation in the first instance had, I dare say, definite ideas in mind. What I had in mind was that if money was available out of the scheme, after the requirements of certain hospitals had been met, that money should be devoted to looking after the sick and ailing, particularly the sick poor. There is no use now in attempting to narrow the benefits of this scheme down to the six, eight, ten or fourteen hospitals that were mentioned in the first instance, simply because they were mentioned and that they happen to be voluntary hospitals. It is almost inconceivable that any person will, in view of the altered circumstances, and in view of the manner in which the original scheme has developed, seek to keep to the idea originally conceived. Can 33? per cent. of the proceeds of the sweepstakes be allocated to the county and district hospitals? Of course it can.
At the very beginning there was one particular hospital mentioned as being especially deserving of assistance. That is the National Maternity Hospital in Holles Street. That hospital had overdrawn its bank account to the extent of £2,000. Its revenue from voluntary contributions did not exceed £500 per annum. In 1929 the cost of running the hospital was £6,413. It was felt that under those circumstances the hospital could not continue. At the same time it could not be allowed to close, and some means, it was felt, would have to be provided for raising funds. At one time it was suggested that the State might step in, and that funds might be provided out of the National Exchequer in order to enable the hospital to carry on. That really would be the next logical, legitimate step to take if nothing else could be done.
What is the position of the Holles Street Hospital to-day? At the present time it is embarking on a reconstruction scheme costing something like £130,000. What is going to be the future position in respect of that hospital which, a few years back, was the most needy hospital of the lot? It has already secured practically £100,000, much more than it ever hoped to get, and much more than the most optimistic person behind the idea of a sweepstake ever thought it would get.
The line of reasoning adopted by Senator The McGillycuddy of the Reeks is not a fair line of reasoning. He said that his figures are conservative. They are much too conservative. If the Senator thinks that, arising out of the organisation of sweepstakes for the next three years there will be a sum of only £3,000,000 available for hospitals, he is making a big mistake in his calculations. There is available from the last sweepstake a sum of close on £1,000,000 for hospitals, and there is every likelihood that the November Handicap Sweepstake will produce a far greater sum. Judging by the results of sweepstakes in the Free State up to the present, on a conservative calculation there will be available for hospitals in this country a sum of at least £5,000,000 or £6,000,000. What is the position of the National Maternity Hospital at Holles Street at the moment? They have wiped out their overdraft, and they have embarked upon a reconstruction scheme. Already they have practically enough money to carry through the reconstruction scheme. On a most conservative estimate they should be able, when the sweepstakes are ended, to capitalise at least £250,000, and that should bring in an annual income of £10,000 a year. If we are to have nine more successful sweepstakes, the position of the National Maternity Hospital will be that it will have an annual income of £10,000 a year. Compare that with the £500 a year it received in past years by way of voluntary subscriptions.
One may logically ask why something cannot be afforded out of the scheme for the county and district hospitals. Are they not deserving of some consideration? Of course they are. According to Senator Gogarty, the Richmond Hospital is embarking on an entirely new building scheme costing £100,000. Some hospitals are already embarking upon big reconstruction schemes, and it is very likely that we are going to have huge building schemes organised by more of them in the very near future. As far as the county and district hospitals are concerned, I believe that any money that we apply to them from the proceeds of sweepstakes will be applied to a most worthy object.
The city hospitals cater for the requirements of reasonably wealthy people as well as poor people. Many of those who have to go into the city hospitals have to pay substantial weekly sums as well as fees, and there is nothing very free there at all. The county and district hospitals cater for the very poorest of our people, and accordingly on that basis they are most deserving of help. The hospitals listed here will, as a result of these sweepstakes, be able to set aside a big sum of money on which they can draw in the future. They will receive sums that will enable them to carry out improvements, to instal the most up-to-date equipment, and to increase salaries, as was suggested yesterday, but the argument in favour of the amendment is that the county and district hospitals should be left to carry on in the way they are at present, with poor buildings, ill-equipped, badly lighted, and with inferior surgical equipment. In many of these county and district hospitals additional maternity wards are required, up-to-date instruments, and X-ray apparatus. The beds are of the poorest type as well as the bedding, and generally these county and district hospitals are of the poorest description. Can anyone argue that nothing should go to their relief? That is what the amendment seeks to convey and what the House is asked to agree to, that no help should be given to the county and district hospitals.
Senator The McGillycuddy used the argument that no contribution from the proceeds of the sweeps should go as a subsidy in the relief of rates. What interpretation can one put on the term "relief of rates"? My interpretation of it would be any sum which would go for the purpose for which rates paid by the ratepayers ordinarily go. The Bill sets out that this sum shall not go to the relief of rates. It sets out specifically that the money so applied shall be in addition to and not in substitution for the moneys expended by such local authority. If that is in the Bill it will be carried out, and I think it is the function of the Minister for Local Government to see that it is carried out. If one wants to analyse the thing in a technical way it is quite clear that the money will not go in actual relief of rates. The only other interpretation that one can put upon the term is that certain additional equipment and additional buildings which, perhaps, should be provided for out of the rates, but which for a very good reason cannot be provided out of the rates, will be provided for out of the money resulting from the sweepstakes. If these county and district hospitals require certain equipment, reconstruction and alterations there is no reason why they should not get it, provided that the other hospitals already in the scheme receive their share and a little more.
The statement has already been made that the ratepayers could make provision for these things. Does anybody suggest that at the present time the farmers of the country, who are the main body of the ratepayers, and with the price of butter what it is, and with the pig industry in its present condition, could bear an increase in their rates for the purpose of providing X-ray apparatus in these county and district hospitals, or to meet the expenditure required if those responsible were to embark on schemes of reconstruction and equipment? I do not think that the farmers' representatives on the county councils would listen to any such suggestion, or that at the present the farmers could afford to meet an increase in their rates. Already there have been some departures from the conception that was behind the original Act. At the outset an attempt was made to establish it that the percentage on the receipts to meet expenses, promoters' fees and so forth should be 30 per cent. Happily there has been a departure in that direction, because the actual percentage under that heading is much less than 30 per cent. At the outset it was accepted that 20 per cent. would be applied to the hospitals. The actual percentage at the present time is 25 per cent. There are certain hospitals listed here that are receiving money out of the proceeds of these sweeps. You have the Dental Hospital and the Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital. These institutions are to a greater degree dispensaries than hospitals. Yet they are going to receive huge sums out of the proceeds of the hospital sweeps. The county and the district hospitals are also, to a large extent, responsible for dispensary work. The expenses of the county and district hospitals which do a lot of dispensary work have to be met by the ratepayers, but the other two institutions in the city of Dublin, which are largely concerned with dispensary work, are going to have their funds greatly increased out of the proceeds of the hospitals sweeps.
Even on the question of the relief of rates, I hope that the hospitals in the city of Dublin which have been accustomed to take in patients sent to them by the local authorities throughout the country will, in the future, see their way not to charge the fee of two guineas a week, which has to be paid in the case of certain patients sent up. That money comes out of the rates, and it is a charge that has to be met by the various boards of health throughout the country. Already there have been a number of departures from the spirit that was behind the original conception of the Act, and I do not think there can be any great harm in going a little bit further.
There is another point I would like to deal with. At the present time there is an increasing tendency in the various counties to send fewer patients to the city hospitals. The tendency is to treat the patients in the local hospitals. The number of patients going to the Dublin, Cork, Galway and Waterford hospitals is fewer to-day than it was some years ago. If that is the tendency, and we know it is, then we should see to it that the county and district hospitals, which provide for the poorest people in the country, should be well equipped. One would imagine from some of the comments that have been made, not, I must say, by Senator The McGillycuddy, that the people in the cities of Dublin and Cork were the only people who contributed to the revenue of the hospitals in these cities. That is not so. The people in the country parts, who will be affected by this amendment, were also contributors, and large contributors, to the funds which went to the aid of the city hospitals. The fact of the matter is that if the sweeps had not been started the State would have had to come to the aid of these voluntary hospitals in the City of Dublin, because, as we know, many of them were on the verge of bankruptcy and would have had to close their doors. It must be remembered that not only are some of the hospitals listed here State-aided, but they are rate-aided as well. It is already admitted in practice, and if this scheme embraces the county and district hospitals no one is going to suffer. Upon the other hand, a lot of good is going to be done. Some of the poorest of our people are going to be provided for in a way that they have not been provided for up to the present. They are going to enjoy some of the treatment ordinarily given to patients who enter the big city hospitals. There is nothing illogical in the demand we are making. It is not unreasonable and not unjust. The hospitals listed here have already been so well provided for that it is now possible to extend the field of their operations. We will not injure them in so doing if we bring in the county and district hospitals, and I hope the House will approve of that.