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Seanad Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 5 Dec 2006

Vol. 185 No. 11

Hospitals Building Programme.

I welcome the Minister to the House. I was momentarily confused and wondered whether I was to discuss with him the issue of Dingle-Daingean Uí Chúis. I realise, however, that we are both here in a different capacity, namely, to discuss the 14-bed extension to Kenmare Community Hospital in County Kerry. Unfortunately, despite the long-standing commitment to build the facility, we have had a litany of broken promises. The extension was a priority of the former Southern Health Board in 2000 and two Deputies from the Kerry South constituency, Deputy Healy-Rae and the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, Deputy O'Donoghue, published literature prior to the 2002 general election in which they made commitments to the project.

I am confused because Deputy Moynihan-Cronin, speaking in County Kerry recently, indicated the project would not proceed. For this reason, I look forward to clarification from the Minister. As I indicated, the project has been put on the long finger despite being a priority in 2000, if not earlier. I was a member of a deputation which met the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney, last June. Deputy Healy-Rae was also present, having helped organise the meeting, and Deputy Moynihan-Cronin was either present or represented at the meeting, which we left with high hopes. I look forward to the Minister enlightening me on the position regarding the project which, I hope, will be delivered.

Dingle-Daingean Uí Chúis is another issue which lands on my shoulders.

I have several more subjects I could raise with the Minister.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to respond on behalf of my colleague, the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney, who apologises for her absence. I thank the Deputy for raising the question as it provides me with an opportunity to outline to this House the current position with regard to the extension to Kenmare Community Hospital in County Kerry.

It is the Government's policy to maintain older people in dignity and independence at home in accordance with their wishes while, at the same time, providing high quality residential care for older people when living at home is no longer possible. The Government's commitment to the development of a comprehensive range of services for older people has been clearly demonstrated by the significantly increased resources made available in recent years. From 1997 to 2005, inclusive, additional spending on health care services for older people amounted to more than €302 million. In the budget package for 2006 additional revenue funding of €150 million in full year costs was allocated for services for older people.

The prioritisation of all health capital developments is a matter for the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. The HSE has advised that the provision of a 14-bed extension to Kenmare Community Hospital has been considered for inclusion in its multiannual capital programme for the period 2006 to 2010. The Kenmare project involves the re-planning of existing accommodation and addition of new accommodation to provide an integrated 40-bed hospital to meet current standards of care. The HSE has completed a draft accommodation brief for the enlargement of the hospital.

The HSE has confirmed that this project did not commence in 2006 due to competing demands for capital funding, including other significant capital projects in County Kerry which required investment in 2006. However, it has also advised that the capital programme will be reviewed and reprioritised annually. Depending on available resources and the progress of other projects, proposed developments such as the extension to Kenmare Community Hospital will be reconsidered by the HSE for inclusion in its revised future capital programme. The programme for 2007 is due to be submitted by the HSE to the Department shortly. I will ensure the case made by Senator Coghlan is brought to the Minister's attention.

I welcome the Minister to the House and thank him for agreeing to discuss this issue. The provision of a community hospital in Ballinamore was promised 20 years ago and the people of the town are anxious to secure a state-of-the-art facility. Given that the nearest hospital is 17 miles from the town, a new facility similar to a day hospital would be welcome. Has progress been made on this vexed issue?

I am pleased to have the opportunity to reply on behalf of my colleague, the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney. I thank the Deputy for raising this matter as it provides me with an opportunity to outline to the House the position regarding the community hospital in Ballinamore, County Leitrim.

In 2001 the former North Western Health Board carried out a consultation and planning process for service developments in the south Leitrim area. An assessment of utilisation of residential services in south Leitrim by older people, including physical infrastructure, formed a core part of the process. The recommendations from this comprehensive review indicated that while the level of residential services, including home and community based services in the south Leitrim area, was adequate, existing infrastructure was significantly inadequate for modern service delivery. The former workhouse facility at Carrick-on-Shannon and St. Patrick's Hospital in particular, need to be replaced with a new purpose-built residential services such as the development proposed for Ballinamore and a new unit in Carrick-on-Shannon which would ensure an accessible service for people in the eastern part of the region.

The Ballinamore project incorporates a 20-bed care managing nursing unit as well as a primary care centre. The project is an approved project in the 2006 to 2010 capital plan of the HSE. A design team has been appointed to carry out the development control plan on the site acquired by the former North Western Health Board. This process commenced in September of this year and involves consultation with Leitrim County Council. The HSE anticipates that this stage will be completed by the end of the year. The next stage will be the procurement of design consultants which should be completed by the first quarter of 2007. The HSE has stated that construction is expected to start late next year.

The Seanad adjourned at 7 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Wednesday, 6 December 2006.