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Seanad Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 7 Apr 1993

Vol. 135 No. 13

Adjournment Matters. - Castlebar Hospital Dialysis Services.

A Chathaoirligh, I thank you for letting my motion be heard this evening. I welcome the Minister to the House and congratulate him on his promotion. I wish him well in his term of office.

I have no doubt the Minister is well aware of the need for a kidney dialysis unit in Castlebar for the county of Mayo. Mayo is a county of more than 2,000 square miles and has a population of 110,000. It is dreadful that to date our county general hospital has no kidney dialysis unit. There are 13 patients in Mayo who receive kidney dialysis treatment. Some come from remote parts of the county and the Minister may be aware that most people have to travel to County Galway for treatment. Such travel is very tiring for patients undergoing lengthy dialysis treatment. County Mayo is so vast that for many to travel out of the county alone would necessitate a journey longer than from Wexford to Dublin.

I thank the Garda Síochána for their tremendous fund raising events, which raised in excess of £57,000 towards a kidney dialysis unit in Castlebar. I also thank the Castlebar Rotary Club and various other Mayo clubs who have raised a total of £150,000 towards the cause. The Minister knows there is great community involvement in the effort to obtain this unit.

In the near future the Minister will be travelling to Mayo to turn the sod for the new general hospital in Castlebar. We will then be able to see at first hand the dearth of hospital facilities in Mayo. The organisations that have raised funds over a long number of years are only too willing to donate that money so the kidney dialysis unit can begin its services in the near future. It will cost in the region of £150,000 annually to run the unit.

I call on the Minister, the Western Health Board and other agencies involved to make a special case and to provide Castlebar with this much needed facility. There may be patients from other counties in addition to the 13 in Mayo, who could avail of the unit.

I draw the Minister's attention to another pressing need in relation to leukaemia and cancer treatment. The vast majority of people outside Dublin, especially those in the west of Ireland have to travel all the way to Dublin for leukaemia treatment, chemotherapy or other cancer treatments. I call on the Minister and also perhaps the Minister for Transport Energy and Communications to provide such people with free public transport. I came across a very sad case in the last week——

You have moved away from the notion.

——where a young couple on social welfare had not the money to travel to Dublin with a young child for a leukaemia operation and the Health Board would not allow the child to be taken to Dublin by ambulance. I ask the Minister to address that issue. I would like those who have gone through much trauma over many years to have that facility.

I thank Senator Burke for his kind comments and good wishes which I greatly appreciate. I was proceded by a colleague——

Two colleagues.

——two colleagues who began their careers in this House — the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht, Deputy M. Higgins and the Minister for Enterprise and Employment, Deputy R. Quinn. I also began my career in this House and it is good to come back. I commend the standard of debate that has been a hallmark of this House.

I am glad the Senator has given me the opportunity to speak about a kidney dialysis unit for Castlebar General Hospital. It is an important issue particularly for the people of County Mayo and the west. As Senator Burke said, kidney dialysis services for the Western Health Board area are provided at a special unit in Merlin Park Regional Hospital in Galway. At present approximately 42 patients are attending Merlin Park for dialysis on a weekly basis, 24 of whom are from County Galway, 12 from County Mayo — the Senator says the number is 13 — and six from County Roscommon. Patients attend the renal dialysis unit for treatment two or three times a week. I appreciate and accept that this involves a lot of travel for some patients and a great deal of discomfort in many cases.

My Department was informed that the Mayo Kidney Dialysis Trust, through voluntary fund raising efforts, had raised approximately £150,000 to help the Western Health Board set up a satellite dialysis unit at Castlebar General Hospital to facilitate in particular patients from County Mayo. The Western Health Board is responsible for the delivery of health services in the region and the board has informed my Department that it would require an additional £245,000 per annum to staff and run such a satellite unit. My Department has many applications for additional revenue to support a range of proposals for desirable service developments throughout the country.

While no specific funds have been provided in the 1993 Estimates in respect of the provision of dialysis services at Castlebar General Hospital, my Department will be discussing this matter with the Western Health Board in the context of the board's 1993 service plans. I assure the Senator and the House of my interest in this matter and I hope the service can be provided as soon as resources allow.

The Seanad adjourned at 8.35 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 8 April 1993.