I propose to take Questions Nos. 738 and 794 together.
On 25 July 2003 I published the report of Mr. Kevin Bonner on Monaghan General Hospital. I indicated, at that time, my acceptance of the main recommendation of the report that Monaghan General Hospital should continue to play a vital role in the delivery of acute hospital services to the local community within the Cavan-Monaghan hospital group. I have also accepted that additional services can be developed at the hospital to the benefit of the local community. In particular, I welcomed the proposals in the report aimed at strengthening the management capacity of the hospital within the Cavan-Monaghan group. The central involvement of consultant staff within this new structure is a very significant development which should enhance the ability of the group to deliver high quality services.
Mr. Bonner has recognised in his report that the pattern of acute hospital service delivery is changing worldwide and that Monaghan hospital's best guarantee for the future is to participate in and accept those changes which will ensure its future viability. In this context, the report's recommendations in relation to the range and configuration of acute services to be delivered within the Cavan-Monaghan hospital group are appropriate for consideration by the North Eastern Health Board.
In this regard, my Department is informed that the North Eastern Health Board has set up a project group to implement the findings of the Bonner report and that a project manager has been appointed to support the group. The project group is due to meet tomorrow 28 January, 2004.
The recently published national task force on medical staffing — Hanly — report will further inform decisions in relation to the future configuration of acute hospital services. The task force was asked to make recommendations about how to best organise hospital medical staffing within the hospital system, having regard to the requirement of the European working time directive to reduce the average weekly working hours of non-consultant hospital doctors and the recommendations of the Forum on Medical Manpower.
In accordance with the recommendations in the Bonner report, I am making additional capital funding available to the North Eastern Health Board under the national development plan. In this context, my Department has recently received proposals from the board on capital needs at Monaghan General Hospital in areas such as refurbishment, fire precaution and other health and safety measures. My Department is currently examining these proposals.