Thank you, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, for the opportunity of raising this important issue on the Adjournment. I thank the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, Deputy Brian Lenihan, for coming in to reply. Next Monday is 1 July and that is why I have raised this issue in the House once again. In February or March of this year the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Martin, made a commitment to the consultants of Monaghan General Hospital, in the presence of GP representatives, Dr. Ambrose McLoughlin from the North-Eastern Health Board and a number of the Minister's party and Oireachtas colleagues, that five junior doctors would be appointed and in place by 1 July 2002 to make sure that accident and emergency services could continue. I understand that as of today no doctors are in place and none have been advertised for by the health board. What is the Minister playing at?
The Minister spent 11 hours in Monaghan in January and he knows first-hand the needs and requirements of Monaghan General Hospital. Fianna Fáil candidates stated in election literature that three new consultants and five junior doctors would be supplied to the hospital. I have Deputy O'Hanlon's literature here. It states that 80% of accident and emergency cases will be treated in Monaghan.
It also states that all medical and surgical emergencies as determined by surgeons on call would be treated in Monaghan. These were the election promises and commitments from the Minister, Deputy Martin.
The facts are different. Following discussions with the Minister in December 2000, Comhairle na nOspidéal undertook a review of the structures, operating staff and accident and emergency services and departments nationally. From that study, the review of the North-Eastern Health Board area recommended Drogheda as the regional emergency centre with two additional consultants based there and one additional con sultant in Cavan. None was to be based in Monaghan General Hospital.
On 3 January 2002, Professor Arthur Tanner, on behalf of the Royal College of Surgeons, stated that it was the view of the college that Monaghan hospital should not accept emergency surgical cases. It is also on record that Professor Tanner had a meeting with the consultant surgeons in the Cavan-Monaghan hospital group in December 2001 at which a template for the future development of surgical services for the hospital group was agreed and the consultant surgeons felt that the template agreement was workable. As the Royal College of Surgeons will not recognise the training of young doctors in an emergency department unless an emergency medicine consultant is based in that department and as Comhairle na nOspidéal has not recommended that consultant for Monaghan, it is evident that no doctor will come to Monaghan unless the Minister changes this recommendation.
When the surgeon, Mr. Maloney, retired, the then Minister for Health, Deputy Noonan, ensured that he was replaced by two rather than one surgeon. The Minister, Deputy Martin, has increased the allocation to the health board over the past five years and has claimed credit for it, but the person who pays the piper should call the tune. I question whether the Minister ever intended to follow through with his promises and commitments.
I attended hospital information meetings organised by the staff of Monaghan General Hospital and they were chaired by one of the consultant surgeons, Mr. Liam McMullen, who advised that they were only information meetings and not ones at which politicians could speak. I question why he as chairman did not give us all the facts he knew. Despite statements to the contrary, he was involved in a political campaign.
All the activities concerning Monaghan General Hospital should be the subject of a full public inquiry. This is a serious issue. We were promised five years ago by health board executives that plans were in place for a major expansion and upgrading of Monaghan General Hospital, including the maternity and surgical wings and the mortuary. All that has happened since is downgrading and transfers to Cavan and Drogheda. Several sections are already closed.
It is vital in the short-term that the Minister or someone on his behalf acts as a mediator between the health board members from County Monaghan and the executive of the health board because the current lack of trust is leading to the worst possible results for Monaghan General Hospital and the people of Monaghan. Insurance companies, Comhairle na nOspidéal and the Royal College of Surgeons are being used as excuses to take away services which were originally put in place by Monaghan County Council and the people of Monaghan. Action is needed now because 1 July is next Monday.