Society has a duty to organise itself in such a manner that its weaker sections are protected by the stronger and more affluent members of society. With profound regret I have to say that the Department of Health and its Ministers have failed to discharge their obligations to the people of Edenderry and its surrounding towns and villages of Bracknagh, Clonbulloge, Rhode, Clonygowan and Geashill. Edenderry District Hospital serves the people of those towns.
The Midland Health Board participated in the initial plan to locate hospitals of different specialities throughout the Midland Health Board area. Although the members have done a certain amount of work on behalf of Edenderry District Hospital, they must be criticised because the case for Edenderry District Hospital has not been pressed with the urgency it deserves. The members of the Midland Health Board should highlight this matter on every occasion.
Edenderry hospital was built in the last century. A number of hospitals were built at the time, including those in Tullamore and Birr. Edenderry hospital has the hallmarks of its time and, although it fulfilled its purpose then, the hospital now falls below standards required for such institutions.
I have visited the hospital on a number of occasions. It is divided into two sections: seven men occupy one section and seven women occupy the other. There is little space in each section and it is difficult to move between the beds. Many of the patients are elderly and incapacitated and the nurses have great difficulty discharging their duties in such confined space. Nevertheless, I have rarely seen patients so clean and in such good spirits. They are a credit to the nursing staff and the people who run the hospital. Although the hospital is clean and the patients are well cared for, the conditions under which they are expected to live are below standard. It is reprehensible that people are obliged to live in such circumstances.
The Midland Health Board produced a plan for Offaly in 1985 which provided for a 50 bed unit in Tullamore, a 50 bed unit in Edenderry and the Birr District Hospital was to receive an extra 40 beds. I am sory to say that no progress has been made. Edenderry hospital in view of its bad condition, was first on the list for improvement but nothing has been done. The hospital is part of the old workhouse system of the 1800s. At present the building is a borderline fire hazard. The walls are damp. It is neither sufficient nor good enough. When I see the way national resources have been spent over the last number of months it angers and upsets me. I feel indignant that money was wasted on unnecessary projects whereas Edenderry District Hospital is absolutely essential. The Department of Health's budget is in the region of £2,000 million. A hospital for Edenderry would cost approximately £800,000 but that money is not being made available.
I recently visited the Minister for Health, as part of a deputation and I was told no resources were available this year. I find that unacceptable. People are born into this world for a short time only and are entitled to live lives of dignity, especially in old age. A society which cannot organise itself to allow people to live in dignity, especially in their final years is failing in its duty. Irrespective of where is comes from money must be found for Edenderry District Hospital. The Minister has an obligation to obtain those resources. Millions of pounds can be found for other projects, yet the Minister cannot find the money necessary for this hospital.
Offaly County Council has discussed this matter and I have attended public meetings where righteous indignation has been expressed by the people of Edenderry. Other hospitals seem to have jumped the queue leaving Edenderry behind; it is not good enough. I demand that this hospital go ahead. The Minister has spoken about Tallaght hospital which is expected to cost £120 million. We do not want a big hospital in Edenderry, we had a hospital there in the past which accommodated 50 people. In 1985 a proposal for a 50 bed hospital was passed and I demand that moneys be allocated immediately to enable work to commence, not next year or the year after, but this year.