Tá áthas orm deis a bheith agam labhairt ar an ceist tábhachtach seo in Ospidéal na hOllscoile Leitir Ceanainn. This is the fourth time I have had an opportunity to raise a Topical Issue on Letterkenny University Hospital but, with no disrespect to the Minister of State, Deputy Finian McGrath, the Minister has yet to present himself in the House to debate these matters. I will deal later with the political aspect of it, in which he is more interested. I am pleased to bring this issue before the Dáil today. I am convinced that by doing so, I have secured the necessary funding for the replacement of the telemetry monitoring unit at the hospital. I know the answer already. It is a sad indictment that it took a Deputy like me to drag the Minister to the House to deal with this.
For the last six weeks, no cardiology rehabilitation services have been provided in Letterkenny. They have not been available for outpatients who had heart attacks or who had undergone a cardiac procedure. As the Minister of State knows, this service should be available four weeks after a heart attack or stent procedure. It is a critical, essential treatment for cardiac patients. The service commenced in Donegal in 1999 and has been excellent. I pay tribute to all involved in it. In addition, it was available in the community in my own town of Dungloe, as well as in Ballyliffin on the Inishowen Peninsula. The approval of funding for the telemetry monitoring unit is only the first step, however. There is no point in having this unit if it is not fully staffed. There is only one nurse available while a second nursing position has remained vacant for six years with the result that the equipment in the unit cannot be used to its full potential.
For the last number of years, we have been failing to provide the minimum number of cardiac rehabilitation sessions. The Irish Association of Cardiac Rehabilitation recommends a minimum of two sessions per patient. Due to staffing shortages, Letterkenny University Hospital is unable to provide that, which is not good enough.
I am here to represent the people of County Donegal and want to ensure that they will get the same services as those that are available throughout the country. Without the second nurse, this will not be fully utilised. The first step we need to take after the announcement I expect the Minister of State to make today is to ensure that the second nurse is made available and that the funding is provided for the employment of that nurse as quickly as possible. It is not acceptable to me that patients in County Donegal are treated in this manner. The second nurse is absolutely essential.
This was decided today by the Minister for Health, Deputy Harris, but the Minister of State, Deputy McGrath, may not be aware that the Minister is more interested in the PR surrounding the statement which the Minister of State will make this evening than the patients in County Donegal. Although not in the same wing, the Minister of State is in government, and that Government spent some time this afternoon, after I had raised the issue, deciding how it could get out a statement before I raised it in the Dáil and secured a favourable response. I am not interested in the politics of this. I put the people of County Donegal and their health ahead of any politics. I await what the Minister of State has to say.