I welcome this valuable opportunity to raise this important matter. The 75 per cent increase in waiting lists in the North-Eastern Health Board region between March 1997 and March 1999 is a cause for alarm, at a time when the Celtic tiger is said to be roaming the country. Almost 1,000 extra cases await treatment. The cases include bypass operations, hip replacements and other orthopaedic procedures. Our Lady's Hospital, Navan, has approximately 220 more patients on its waiting list, an increase of 85 per cent. Wards in that hospital have been closed down. Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, has 500 more patients on the waiting list, an increase of 107 per cent.
A patient who was seen in September 1998 was told that he would be seen by the surgeon in Navan on 3 June 1999. When the patient was seen on 3 June he was told to wait until the following Tuesday to have an X-ray in Monaghan. He then had to return to Navan on the following Thursday, so the person accompanying him had to take three days off work. This examination was done in an effort to have the patient put on the urgent list, but he has heard no word since. On his last visit, the surgeon told him that his hip needed to be replaced urgently and his other hip, which had been replaced previously, needed attention.
A second person has been on an urgent list since April 1999. When my office phoned the admissions department we were informed that the theatre will be closed during July and August because of holidays and refurbishment. The hospital can give this patient no information until after the holidays.
Another case refers to a person who is in a home for the elderly in Northern Ireland. He has been there for the past 15 months instead of being in the complex in Monaghan where he had been previously resident, at one third the cost. When will this patient be operated on and relieved of his pain and when will the State be relieved of the cost of £360 per week which must be paid to the nursing home in Northern Ireland?
A young girl was to have a check-up in Tallaght hospital last autumn. The other day I received a letter from St. Vincent's Hospital which included the following:
The Tallaght Hospital, up until the start of the year, were operating a video telemetry machine. Because of cutbacks, of which I am sure you are fully aware which involve the Tallaght Hospital, this service has been suspended.
I would be grateful if you could write to the Minister for Health requesting that this service should be financed because we don't have any access for this service for our patients in St Vincent's and Tallaght Hospitals.
All this is happening at a time when we have millions of pounds in extra revenue. The sale of Telecom Éireann is about to take place, yet these people are being asked to suffer indefinitely. In the absence of the real Minister, I am sure Dr. Moffatt will give us reasons for this situation and try to make things sound as simple as possible.
The Minister may be going to Brussels as our Commissioner shortly. For the sake of the health service in the north-eastern region and because of his failure to finance it, I hope he goes. When he had the opportunity a few weeks ago, he failed to finance Monaghan General Hospital. I ask the Minister to give those who are suffering some hope that they will be called in the next few weeks and will not be allowed to suffer any longer.