Hospital Services.

I wish to share time with Senator Glynn.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

This Adjournment matter relates to dermatology services for the people of Longford-Westmeath. I fear that the consultant who has left will not be replaced. I attended a meeting in Mullingar organised by the Health Service Executive for Oireachtas Members. We are very proud of the Midland Regional Hospital Mullingar. According to recent ratings, it is one of the top three hospitals in Ireland. Sadly, there is a consistent threat to services in the Mullingar area.

The consultant dermatologist left last February. There was very little incentive for her to stay. She had a part-time secretary, a part-time nurse, no registrar, no SHO and no infrastructure. There was no phototherapy, which is necessary to treat people with skin problems. Essentially, there was no goodwill within the HSE to support her.

As a junior Member of the Seanad I have experienced a similar situation in regard to a few services in the hospital. Colposcopy services are being downgraded and we will probably lose them. An acute mental health unit has never been developed. We had to fight tooth and nail to get a sexual assault unit, even though we have first-rate obstetrics and gynaecology. We also have an excellent paediatric unit. I fear that all these services are being downgraded in favour of the Taoiseach's constituency and the hospital in Tullamore. That is an outrage.

I raise this serious issue because people are coming from as far away as Roscrea and Kildare to the hospital in Mullingar. How can we encourage highly qualified consultants to come to Mullingar if we do not put the services in place? We need to provide attractive positions. We have a wonderful facility in Mullingar. It is an hour from Dublin and it offers a great quality of life for such consultants, yet we do not put in place the requirements needed by a consultant such as a second consultant to provide support for time off. I have made my point clearly so I will hand over to Senator Glynn.

The Leas-Chathaoirleach will recall that I made these points on the Order of Business on at least two occasions. I lobbied hard to get a dermatology service for Mullingar and I succeeded in doing so. It is true that the resources available to the person appointed were insufficient. The reason given was insufficient financial resources, yet when the person in question left, resources suddenly could be found to recruit two dermatologists. Having spoken to an individual from the Health Service Executive, I note a question mark was placed over the location of the dermatology service.

When I lobbied successfully for the provision of a dermatology service, it was stated to me there would be a department of dermatology for Mullingar. Since then, I have spoken to the chief executive officer of the HSE, Professor Brendan Drumm, and impressed upon him the importance of retaining the service in Mullingar. Not doing so sends out all the wrong signals. This has nothing to do with the fact that the Taoiseach is from 22 miles down the road. The health service is operated by the HSE. If one tables a motion pertaining to any given health service, one will be told the Minister has no direct responsibility as it is a matter for the HSE. That said, it sends out the wrong signal to the staff of the Midland Regional Hospital Mullingar, which is among the top three hospitals, as I have statedad nauseam in this Chamber. The sustained efforts of all the staff will be dealt a body blow if the dermatology service is lost.

Statistics pertaining to all the services in the Midland Regional Hospital Mullingar show it is a very high performing hospital and that the amount of sick leave and other leave taken is not as high as in other hospitals in the region. An in-depth examination must be carried out because the hospital has provided the goods and done the job. All we are saying now is that what we have, we hold, and that we want the services in the hospital augmented further. Although Ireland and the rest of the world are experiencing a difficult time, I am not prepared to accept the circumstances that obtain. A communication I received from a relative in Canada yesterday indicates that, contrary to what is being said, that country is not immune to the downturn.

In any event, the Midland Regional Hospital Mullingar has a long and proud history of health service provision. It was one of the top hospitals nationally in terms of student graduates when it was a training hospital. Operating in tandem with the dermatology service, the psychiatric service and all the others, there is a psychiatry of later life unit, which is one of the most successful in the country and the only one in the midlands. We have a lot of firsts to our credit.

I thank the Leas-Chathaoirleach for his indulgence and Senator McFadden for sharing her time.

If the period for which the Senator spoke amounted to one minute, I could have spoken for ten.

I am not greedy; it is just that I like a lot.

I thank Senator McFadden for tabling this matter on the Adjournment and for sharing her time so generously with Senator Glynn. I am responding on behalf of the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney, who sends her apologies for not being present.

The Midland Regional Hospital at Mullingar provides an extensive range of acute services to the population of Dublin and the midlands, especially to people in the Longford-Westmeath area. The Government has shown its commitment to the hospital by way of the capital improvements it has supported in recent years. Recent developments at the hospital have seen the bed complement increase from 215 to 244. The developments include the fitting out of the existing ward shells to provide a new paediatric ward, a new day surgery and gynaecology ward, a new obstetric ward and a new medical ward incorporating an acute stroke unit; refurbishment of the existing paediatric and obstetric wards to provide surgical and medical wards and a palliative care unit; and the extension of the existing facilities to accommodate an interim special care baby unit adjacent to the new paediatric ward. I am pleased that these works have been completed and that the ward areas are now fully operational. Approval was granted for the refurbishment of two further wards in the existing hospital: a medical-surgical ward and a delivery-gynaecology ward. This work is due to be completed shortly.

The first consultant dermatologist for the midlands was appointed to the Midland Regional Hospital Mullingar in September 2007. However, the consultant resigned from her post in February and the Health Service Executive has since advertised for a locum replacement.

The HSE also allocated funding to allow for the further expansion of the service for the midlands. In the interim, the executive will seek to recruit a locum dermatologist to continue the service at Mullingar. The HSE is also seeking to put in place short-term alternative arrangements outside the region for the continuing provision of services for patients, where necessary. The HSE will continue to ensure that a high-quality dermatology service is available to the people of the midlands.

The Minister of State said, "The HSE also allocated funding to allow for the further expansion of the service for the midlands." This explains all. I asked that the service be provided in Mullingar hospital. Therefore, the Minister of State's reply did not really answer my question. Will he ask the Minister for Health and Children for further clarification on providing high-quality dermatology services for Mullingar hospital in the midlands rather than for anywhere else?

To reiterate, in the interim, the HSE will seek to recruit a locum dermatologist to continue the service at Mullingar. I will convey the Senator's views on long-term provision to the Minister.

I hear what the Minister of State is saying. Senator Glynn will support me in saying a locum is not enough. We are seeking a proper dermatology service.