Accident and Emergency Department Waiting Times

Questions (55)

John Halligan


55. Deputy John Halligan asked the Minister for Health the current average waiting time, compared with last year, for patients on trolleys before they are admitted to Waterford Regional Hospital; the extent to which these waiting times have improved; his views on whether sufficient improvements have been made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21146/14]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

The need to reduce waiting times for patients requiring emergency admission remains a priority for me.  Heretofore, the unscheduled care agenda has been dominated by the emphasis on trolleys.  As the majority of emergency attendances do not result in admission, this focus needs to change to the broader Patient Experience Time (PET), which includes all who attend for emergency care, whether or not their attendance results in admission. Patient Experience Time (PET) refers to the length of time a patient spends in an ED from the time they are registered to the time they depart to, for example, home, an in-patient bed, or to an AMU, etc.

The Key Performance Indicator (KPI) identified in respect of unscheduled care in the HSE Service Plan is that 95% of Patients will have departed the ED within 6 hours of admission and 100% will have departed within 9 hours.  Nationally, in April 2014 67.5% of patients attending Emergency Departments were discharged home or admitted within 6 hours and 81.8% of patients attending Emergency Departments were discharged home or admitted within 9 hours. The following table reflects the Patient Experience Time (PET) performance for patients attending the ED at Waterford Regional Hospital.

Patient Experience Time

6 Hours

9 Hours

National Target



WRH -March 2013



WRH - March 2014



WRH -April 2014



The Deputy may wish to note that Waterford Regional Hospital is working to achieve the national targets, and PET performance times at the Hospital are currently above the national average.

Ambulance Service Provision

Question No. 57 answered with Question No. 8.

Question No. 58 answered with Question No. 6.

Questions (56)

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin


56. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health the purpose of the current Health Service Executive review of emergency ambulance services; if it will include a capacity review for the entire State with the aim of enhancing the service, including increased staffing and infrastructure where required in regions with poor ambulance cover, and the retention of the highly valued ambulance role of the Dublin fire brigade; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21290/14]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

The National Ambulance Service (NAS) has commissioned a national capacity review to determine the level and use of resourcing required for a safe and effective service. This independent review will be undertaken by the UK Association of Ambulance Chief Executives, an organisation with considerable international experience in operational and strategic reviews of this kind.

In the context of the development of the national control system, a review of the Dublin Fire Brigade (DFB) ambulance service is also underway. That review was commissioned by the Dublin City Manager and the HSE's Chief Operating Officer, and will consider all aspects of DFB ambulance operations, including the capacity and capability of ambulance services. The review will inform consideration of the best model for provision of emergency medical services in the greater Dublin area. The Deputy may also wish to note that HIQA is undertaking a review of the NAS and will examine the governance arrangements of pre-hospital emergency care services, to ensure the timely assessment, diagnosis, initial management and transport of an acutely ill patient to an appropriate healthcare facility.

The three reviews are being conducted in parallel in a concerted effort to examine our pre-hospital emergency care services throughout the country, with a view to identifying the best way to enable them to meet the challenges of the future. I am confident that the recommendations will guide us in the provision of a modern, forward looking service, capable of delivering the best possible outcomes for the public.

Question No. 57 answered with Question No. 8.
Question No. 58 answered with Question No. 6.

Hospital Staff Recruitment

Questions (59)

John Halligan


59. Deputy John Halligan asked the Minister for Health if his attention has been drawn to the fact that Waterford Regional Hospital is currently struggling to cope with lists of patients waiting to be seen and-or awaiting medical procedures, as the hospital is operating without a full complement of consultants; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that both the dermatology and urology departments currently have no consultants and that many other departments have limited cover; his plans to ensure the vacant positions are filled as soon as possible; if he will confirm that the reason consultants are not taking up these positions is that the remuneration packages being offered are well below the national average for identical positions within the health system and are simply not attractive to potential candidates; if he agrees that in order to attract competent professionals to take up these positions, the package offered needs to be in line with the rest of the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21144/14]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

Notwithstanding the need to reduce the numbers employed across the public service in order to meet fiscal and budgetary targets, the HSE has the capacity to recruit frontline staff including consultants to ensure service delivery. However, I am aware that some hospitals are having difficulties in filling certain consultant posts. Last July I established a working group, chaired by Professor Brian MacCraith, to carry out a strategic review of medical training and career structure aimed, inter alia, at improving graduate retention in the public health system and planning for future service needs.

To date, that working group has issued two reports. The first report submitted in December focused on improving the training experience for trainees. The second report submitted to me at the end of April reviewed career structures and pathways following completion of specialist training. A key recommendation is that health service management and medical organisations should commence, as a matter of urgency, an industrial relations engagement of short duration to address the barrier caused by the variation in pay rates between new entrant consultants and their established peers that have emerged since 2012. This issue has been identified as being important in the recruitment of consultants. It is anticipated that negotiations will begin shortly under the aegis of the Labour Relations Commission and aim to conclude by July. The final report of the Group is due to be submitted by the end of June.

As the specific case raised by the Deputy is an operational matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply. Where recruitment difficulties arise agency and locum staff are typically used to ensure service provision.

Human Rights Issues

Questions (60)

Clare Daly


60. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will make every possible effort to defend the right of Colombian people to protest, associate and mobilise without fear for their lives (details supplied); and if he will use his influence to make sure the Colombian Government finally listens to the demands of the farmers. [21707/14]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

Ireland is committed to defending the universality of human rights, including the promotion and protection of space within which civil society can operate, free from harassment or intimidation.

Ireland engages on human rights issues on an on-going basis in our contacts with the Colombian Government and civil society. We have also raised issues of concern within the context of the most recent United Nations Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review of Colombia in 2013, and we continue to work closely with our partners in the EU to monitor and to support the progressive improvement of the human rights situation in Colombia.

With regard to the agrarian protests in Colombia, it is important that Colombians who engage peacefully in the political and social developments of their society can do so without fear of risks to their personal security. It is also important that all parties operate within the rule of law. I understand that Colombia's Minister of the Interior has written recently to regional and local leaders concerning the need to guarantee citizens' rights to freedom of expression and to peaceful assembly.

I am aware of the grievances of agrarian protestors and of the dialogue underway with Government in this regard. The challenging socioeconomic conditions faced by some in Colombia are serious and making progress in addressing these can best be done in a context of peace and trust. Rural development and agrarian reforms are a particular priority and for this reason feature as one of the key aspects of the Colombian peace talks currently underway, as well as a policy area of priority more broadly.

A comprehensive peace agreement would create significant opportunities for resources across society to be directed towards building a stable and equitable Colombia. I commend all those that are working constructively in the peace process and hope that their efforts will bring an end to a long conflict that has caused much suffering.

Property Tax Yield

Questions (61)

Brian Stanley


61. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Finance the amount each individual local authority received from the local property tax in 2013. [21689/14]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

Section 157 of the Finance (Local Property Tax) Act 2012, as amended, provides that, in each financial year commencing with 2014, the Minister shall pay from the Central Fund or the growing produce thereof into the Local Government Fund an amount equivalent to the Local Property Tax, including any interest paid thereon, paid into the Central Fund during that year.

Accordingly, receipts from the Local Property Tax received in 2013 remained in the Exchequer and were used to meet the many expenditure obligations faced by the State. Importantly, the allocation to the Local Government Fund for 2013 had already been decided before the Local Property Tax commenced.

Water Charges Introduction

Questions (62)

Róisín Shortall


62. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Finance the extent to which the expected yield from domestic water charges in 2015 affects the necessary budgetary adjustment in budget 2015. [21639/14]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

As revenue arising from water charges will go to Irish Water, a State owned commercial company, it will not benefit the Exchequer or count as general government revenue.  Accordingly, it is not relevant to the calculation of the general government deficit for 2015.

The establishment of Irish Water is a long-term investment project to deliver the necessary water services infrastructure and quality of services required to meet statutory compliance and demographic need.  After the transitional phase in the establishment of Irish Water, the company's operational and capital costs of development of water and waste infrastructure will be funded from its revenue and own resources, which implies lower ongoing costs and borrowing needs for the State in the longer term.