Written Answers. - Ward Closures.

Noel Ahern

Ceist:

214 Mr. N. Ahern asked the Minister for Health if he will give details of all ward closures in the Dublin area notified to his Department over the past four months; and if these closures were for annual leave purposes up to one month, financial cutbacks or other reasons. [16493/96]

Ivor Callely

Ceist:

234 Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Health whether he will permit any closure or reduction in the number of beds in all the existing hospitals in view of his recent statement that he will not close or downgrade any hospital in the country during his term in office; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16662/96]

Limerick East): I propose to take Questions Nos. 214 and 234 together.

Since taking office as Minister for Health, I have stated publicly on a number of occasions that I have no proposals to downgrade or close any hospitals during my term of office. My policy remains unchanged on this issue.

With regard to seasonal bed closures, the suspension from use of some hospital beds over the summer months has been characteristic of the provision and organisation of hospital services throughout the country for many years. Such closures are usually planned to coincide with a period when staff are on annual leave and when the level of activity has traditionally declined. In addition, this period is often used as an opportunity to refurbish wards or carry out minor capital works. All emergency and urgent services, of course, continue to be provided during this period.

Any decision on the level of bed closures during the summer months is a matter for the health boards and hospitals concerned in the first instance. However, as in other years officials of my Department have reviewed the summer bed closures and I can confirm that the average number of beds closed in the Dublin area from June to September 1996 was 141, which is the equivalent of 2.6 per cent of the total bed complement.
A further review of the projected bed closures between now and the end of the year is being carried out by my Department.