Adjournment Debate. - Health Matters.

At this stage the House would hear a two minute statement from Deputy Finucane, were it not for the fact that the Deputy is detained at a meeting of the Select Committee dealing with the Committee Stage of the Finance Bill. I understand a vote is imminent there. Deputy Finucane has asked me to apologise to the Minister concerned and to the House for his inability to be with us. I am sure the Minister concerned and the House will understand his obligation to be in attendance at that important Committee which the House established recently. I therefore proceed to the two-minute statement from Deputy Rabbitte.

The fact that the board of the Adelaide Hospital felt compelled to go public about the manner in which the Department of Health has reneged on their commitment not to put the hospital under financial pressure pending its future being decided, finally exposes a scandal which the Government would prefer to keep under wraps. Despite explicit assurances by the former Taoiseach, Deputy Haughey, that the requirements of this unique hospital would be met in the short term, successive Ministers for Health have reneged on these assurances. The Adelaide Hospital required an additional £800,000 to operate merely at the same level as last year. This was refused. This decision followed on a similar refusal the previous year. It is death by a thousand cuts. The Adelaide Hospital is being systematically undermined. A small hospital can only take so many cuts before patient care is put at risk.

From the viewpoint of my constituents in Tallaght, Clondalkin, Walkinstown and Rathcoole this controversy highlights the confusion at the heart of Government concerning the Regional Hospital at Tallaght. On 26 March 1992 the Minister for Health told me in the Dáil:

I did suggest to the Adelaide Hospital — and I am not laying down laws — that they might consider remaining where they were providing a vital service in the inner city

Today the Minister says the Adelaide is going to Tallaght. Does the Minister know what is going on? Did David Kennedy report on alternative methods of funding by the end of April as the Minister has promised? If so what are those proposals? When will construction at Tallaght commence? Will the valuable ethos and experience of the Adelaide be lost to the new regional hospital? Will the Minister make a clear statement assuring the future of the Adelaide Hospital?

First of all, I should state that I can appreciate the concerns of the Adelaide Hospital as expressed by their chairman, Dr. David McConnell. However, I would like to reassure the House that the Government remain fully committed to the Tallaght Hospital Project.

As I informed the House last month during the debate on the Private Members' motion on the matter, I had requested the Dublin Hospital Advisory Group to expedite their examination of the project. I understand that the group, which is chaired by Professor David Kennedy, is completing its work and will be submitting its report to me in the near future. Following receipt of the report I will be bringing the matter urgently to Government for decision. I have said that on a number of occasions.

As regards the role of the Adelaide Hospital in the management of the Tallaght Hospital I would like to put on record again in the House the Government's commitment to ensure that the position of the Adelaide Hospital, as a focus for Protestant participation in the health services and their particular denominational ethos, will be continued in the new hospital. What I said was only in case they did not want to move. We would please them. That was my reason.

They never raised the issue.

Whatever they want will be done, not what we want. I emphasise that again and again. The Deputy seems to be impervious to rational talk. He comes in here with a negative approach to everything.

The hospital has been promised for 12 years.

I am astonished at the Deputy's reaction.

Interruptions during two-minute statements are particularly unwelcome.

As regards the hospital's present financial position, I accept that in common with all health agencies they have and are continuing to experience difficulties in living within their approved allocations. I accept also that because of their special teaching role it would be desirable to fund the Adelaide so that they could use all their available beds. However, because of the overall restrictions on resources for the health services this has not proved possible. I regret that the hospital should take the view that their funding difficulties arise for any reason other than the general restrictions on resources available to the health services. My Department in recent discussions and correspondence with the hospital have already made a number of suggestions to help ease their difficulties during the current year. While the hospital have not yet responded to these suggestions, I agreed on radio this morning, in company with Dr. David McConnell, to preside over a meeting between his board and my Department to explore ways and means of coping with their present difficulties. I have made this clear already and I do so again. I would ask Deputy Rabbitte to be more positive in his contributions in this House.

The Dáil adjourned at 9.10 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Wednesday, 13 May 1992.