I thank the Ceann Comhairle for giving me the opportunity to raise this matter on the Adjournment. The urgent necessity for the Minister to authorise Phase II of the Castlebar General Hospital has been raised on a number of occasions in this Chamber and I hope this will be the last time any Deputy has to raise this issue. In wishing the Minister well in this onerous task, I should like to remind him that his three predecessors failed to authorise this work. It may well be that this is the last chance the people of Castlebar and County Mayo in general will have to see this work commenced.
I note and welcome the Minister's public announcement today of his commitment to funding for the Tallaght Hospital. Obviously this is a priority which must be welcomed. The commencement of work on Phase II of Castlebar General Hospital cannot and will not be commenced unless certain action is taken. The existing hospital is like a bird with one wing or a doctor's surgery without any implements. The hospital cannot operate effectively because the planning and design proposals dictated by the civil servants in the Minister's Department have not yet been implemented. The planning and design proposals for Phase II were drawn up to dovetail with the work on Phase I. Patients who are being treated in the older section of the hospital at present face the consequent risk of cross-infection. Indeed, sections of the older building could constitute a fire hazard. This creates practical difficulties for the nurses, doctors, staff, patients and their relatives. I wish to outline the action which needs to be taken to redress this problem.
I welcome the Minister's announcement that he intends to visit Louth County Hospital. I extend to him a formal invitation to visit Castlebar General Hospital. When he was Minister for Health, the former Deputy Barry Desmond, visited Castlebar General Hospital. Having seen at first hand the conditions in the old hospital, he allocated the necessary funds and authorised work on Phase 1 to proceed.
It is necessary to have a health service outside Dublin. I should like the Minister to authorise the planning and development work on the remaining section of phase I to proceed. This will take at least six months to complete, at no great cost to the Department. The people of Castlebar and the Western Health Board will more than readily accept the phasing in of work on Phase II over a two or three year period. I ask the Minister not to leave us in limbo for a further ten years. If the Department carry out cost analysis I believe they will find that the cost of Phase II against rationalising the existing structures in order to provide a decent service for the people of County Mayo, are more or less the same.
The promises and commitments given by the Minister's three predecessors received local and national coverage. The case for this work has already been made and accepted by the Department, and has never been denied. Indeed, the higher civil servants in the Department state regularly that the hospital cannot operate effectively or practically at present. I again issue a formal invitation to the Minister to visit Castlebar General Hospital. I ask him either on that occasion or beforehand, to please authorise the completion of the planning and development work on Phase I. We can then discuss allocating resources from the 1993, 1994 and 1995 capital programmes for Phase II. This development is much needed and I am sure the Minister will give it his urgent attention.