Tuesday, 27 January 2004

Questions (657)

John Deasy

Question:

775 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of consultant neurologists employed in each health board area; the plans there are to appoint additional consultant neurologists, particularly in the South Eastern Health Board area in view of the fact that an MRI scanner which has been in place at Waterford Regional Hospital for the past two years is being underutilised due to the lack of a neurology team; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2170/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

Comhairle na nOspideal has advised my Department that the current number of consultant neurologist posts is 19. The location of these posts is shown on the following table.

Board/Authority

Number of Posts

Eastern Region Health Authority

13

Southern Health Board

4

Western Health Board

2

Comhairle recently published the report of the committee to review neurology and neurophysiology services and I am happy to endorse its recommendations for a significant enhancement of services, including increases in consultant manpower. The report also recognises that there are aspects of a number of other specialties and services, such as rehabilitation medicine, geriatric medicine and old age psychiatry, which are related to and overlap with neurology services. Comhairle has recommended that a national multidisciplinary review of rehabilitation services be undertaken to further inform the policy framework in relation to the development of neurology services.

Consistent with this recommendation, and in line with commitments in the national health strategy, a national action plan for rehabilitation services is being prepared by my Department. The action plan will set out a programme to meet existing shortfalls in services and to integrate specialised facilities with locally based follow up services. The rehabilitation action plan, together with the Comhairle report and the work undertaken by the Neurological Alliance of Ireland through its own publications, will offer a comprehensive policy framework for the future development of neurology and neurophysiology services.

My Department will continue to work closely with the alliance and the Irish Consultant Neurologists Association with regard to the future development of services. The implementation of the Comhairle recommendations will be progressed having regard to the evolving policy framework in this area, competing funding priorities and the report of the National Task Force on Medical Staffing.

The use of the MRI scanner at Waterford Regional Hospital is a matter for the South Eastern Health Board. My Department has asked the chief executive officer of the board to examine the issues raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.