Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate

Official Apology

I do not believe Deputy Mattie McGrath will be here. He rang me to say he would not be here.

I thank the Ceann Comhairle for selecting this important matter for debate. Many Members will have heard the episode of RTÉ's "Documentary on One" over the weekend entitled "Fire in the Sky". The programme was brilliantly produced by Donal O'Herlihy and Michael Lawless and featured the former President of Ireland, Dr. Mary McAleese. Ms Mary Kingston, whose husband, Tim Kingston, died was one of the contributors, as was her son, Michael Kingston, who was just four years old when his dad was lost in atrocious circumstances in the Whiddy Island disaster, which claimed 51 lives due to an appalling failure to rescue jetty workers and a tanker crew on the offshore jetty. Michael Kingston has since gone on to become a maritime lawyer, working with many Governments and the International Maritime Organization on maritime regulatory safety.

"Fire in the Sky" is a gripping documentary which tells the heartbreaking story of that dreadful night. Everyone died needlessly because of breaches of Irish regulation by Gulf Oil Corporation and the Irish State's failure to enforce safety regulations. Additionally, it is the case and was very clear from Mary McAleese's testimony that there was an appalling failure in the administration of justice and that these families were put through further and unimaginable torture.

I ask the Minister of State, Deputy Naughton, to respectfully reach out and meet with the French-Irish Association of Relatives and Friends of the Betelgeuse through its representative, Michael Kingston. The victims, their families, the workers, rescue services, residents of Whiddy Island, the people of Bantry and west Cork have been waiting for four decades for a State apology and to discuss the rectification of the victims' death certificates to record unlawful deaths. There is also a need for the urgent implementation of outstanding international maritime regulation. I ask the Minister of State to do this now, with a view to arranging a heartfelt State apology to be delivered by the Taoiseach in Dáil Éireann before the next anniversary of the Whiddy Island disaster.

In 1979, there was failure of regulation. We did not take the opportunity at that time to look at where regulation failed. It is critical in any investigation to analyse the regulation surrounding the incident. Were the regulations suitable? Were they correctly enforced? Could they have been improved upon? It is sad to say that we still have the same regime today. I again ask the Minister of State, on behalf of the Government, to respectfully reach out and meet the family and friends association now, with a view to a heartfelt State apology being delivered by the Taoiseach here in Dáil Éireann.

I thank Deputy Carey for raising this important issue. I acknowledge what a tragedy the Whiddy Island disaster was and express my deepest sympathies to those who died and the families they left behind. A tribunal of inquiry was established in April 1979, with the High Court judge, Mr. Justice Declan Costello, being appointed to lead the inquiry. A number of public hearings with oral testimony were conducted throughout 1979 and Mr. Justice Costello submitted his report in May 1980. The report concluded that a number of factors contributed to the disaster, including the poor condition of the French-registered oil tanker, along with Gulf Oil not following the correct safety procedures and a lack of regulation of the safety of oil jetties. The then Minister for Labour put in place the Dangerous Substances (Oil Jetties) Regulations in 1979, which regulate the safety of oil jetties in the State. I understand there have been further developments in this area with the Health and Safety Authority publishing its code of practice for health and safety in dock work in 2016, which addresses safety arrangements at oil jetties. Given the broad range of issues involved across a number of Departments, the original report into the inquiry and any subsequent documentation will need to be reviewed in light of any request received from the families and a consensus reached across Government Departments on specific issues raised.

Separately, it is important to note that the Marine Casualty Investigation Board, MCIB, was only established as an independent body following the enactment of the Merchant Shipping (Investigation of Marine Casualties) Act 2000, with a mandate to examine and, if necessary, carry out investigations into all types of marine casualties to, or on board, Irish-registered vessels worldwide and other vessels in Irish territorial waters and inland waterways.

The Deputy will be aware that on 9 July 2020, the Court of Justice of the European Union, CJEU, issued a judgment concerning the independence of the MCIB and the findings have since been addressed through the resignation of two board numbers in July last year and the introduction of amending regulations under the European Communities Act 1972. While these actions addressed the CJEU ruling from an EU perspective, separate revision of the 2000 Act is required to facilitate the appointment of new members of the MCIB. Drafting of the Bill to amend the Act of 2000 is at an advanced stage and it is hoped to progress the publication of the Bill in the coming period as a part of the Government's autumn legislative programme.

Separately, an independent review of the organisational structures for marine casualty investigation in Ireland was initiated in March of this year. The key objective of the review is to assess the current organisational structures for marine casualty investigation and to set out in a report any recommendations to achieve the most appropriate and effective marine casualty investigation structures for Ireland, taking into account national, EU and international obligations.

Following a competitive tender process, Clinchmaritime Limited was selected to undertake the review and tasked to report back to the Minister for Transport with recommendations on how Ireland should approach marine casualty investigations going forward. Clinchmaritime Limited is headed by Captain Steve Clinch, a former chief inspector of marine accidents in the UK's marine accident investigation branch who has experience working at a high level in EU and international capacities relating to marine casualty investigations. Captain Clinch began the review process in late March and a report on the review of organisational structures underpinning marine casualty investigation in Ireland has been submitted to my Department and is currently being examined.

The Minister of State will be aware of the work of the Committee on Transport and Communications concerning the marine casualty investigation board following the Court of Justice of the European Union judgment against Ireland for failing to implement international maritime regulations, which came, incredibly, 41 years after the disaster's appalling regulatory framework failings. Over the past year our committee has heard compelling evidence from expert witnesses, including Mr. Michael Kingston, of fundamental ongoing shortcomings in maritime safety and adherence to international law.

To the credit of the Minister of State, and the Minister, Deputy Eamon Ryan, a review was initiated at the request of the committee. This review has since been completed by Captain Steve Clinch and was submitted to the Department last July. The problem is that we have been here before. The 1998 report recommended international best practice and 11 years ago a barrister, Ms Roisin Lacey, completed similar work and presented draft legislation, yet this legislation was buried in the Department and the fundamental reforms that would have ensured a properly constituted independent and competent marine casualty investigation unit did not happen.

It is now 43 years since the Whiddy Island disaster. Despite 51 deaths, we cannot respect that and fix our regulations. Along with a State apology, to be agreed with the Whiddy Island families, there also needs to be an urgent root and branch review of Ireland's current failure to implement international maritime regulations to give these people due respect. Sadly, lives continue to be lost in maritime accidents in our State, including in my constituency, Clare, due to our failure to adhere to international law and ensure proper regulations are followed. Urgent change is required. We now have a chance to enact legislation on the back of the Clinch report to address our appalling shortcomings in this area which sadly continue to result in a needless loss of life.

I thank Deputy Carey. In regard to meeting the Whiddy Island families, I would of course be happy to meet them, as would the Minister, Deputy Eamon Ryan, if any request was made to my office to do so. I again want to say that any request from the families will of course be considered by all Departments involved, taking account of the report of the tribunal of inquiry and any subsequent information available.

Maritime safety is a key concern of my Department. There have been great changes in the maritime sector generally in terms of technology and updated safety procedures over the past number of years. My Department is committed to ensuring the safety of the sector and all of those who work in it. More recently, a review of maritime regulations was undertaken in 2020 and earlier this year my Department published its strategy for the next five years for the Irish Maritime Directorate, which includes actions to progress the development of maritime safety legislation. Work is ongoing with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel on an amendment to the Merchant Shipping (Investigation of Marine Casualties) Act 2000, which was subject to extensive pre-legislative scrutiny earlier this year. It is hoped to progress this Bill through the autumn session.

As I also mentioned, the independent report into the organisational structures underpinning marine casualty investigation in Ireland is currently being considered by my Department. It is worth noting that, simultaneous to the review, officials in the Department of Transport ran a public consultation is between March and May of this year and the submissions received on foot of this consultation were provided in full to Captain Clinch to inform his review. Finally, I would like to once again express my sincere condolences to those affected by the Whiddy Island disaster.

Fire Service

I do not mean this disrespectfully in any way to the people who sit opposite, but it is regrettable that the Minister, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, is not here to take this Topical Issue. Anyone from the Dublin Fire Brigade who is watching will not be surprised. They have sought a meeting with the Minister. I would be very grateful if the Minister of State could pass on that request directly to the Minister and underline for him that it is important that he meets the men and women, and their representatives, from the Dublin Fire Brigade. The work they do in Dublin city and county is absolutely vital.

We only have to listen to radio shows over the past couple of days to understand that people are now being left waiting. That is not acceptable. It is not the service that the men and women in the Dublin Fire Brigade want to be able to deliver. They need staff to be able to deliver the services they are trained to provide but due to staff depletion, on 28 September six appliances were off the road. That is not acceptable. The population in Dublin city is growing. Where I live in north County Dublin, the population is growing at a rate of knots. The services are not keeping pace with this growth.

The issue we have is that staffing in the Dublin Fire Brigade has been depleted to a level that is so concerning that representatives from the Dublin Fire Brigade, Fórsa and SIPTU are now reaching out to political representatives to seek our help, not just to highlight the issue, because the issue was obvious to everyone who lives in Dublin, but to ask very clearly if the Minister can lay out how he is going to ensure the full complement of Dublin Fire Brigade staff and how they will be recruited and trained.

Can the Minister of State outline what additional funding will be set aside to recruit additional firefighters? Can she give any comfort to people in Dublin who are listening to this and want to know that they have a fire service that is resourced and fit for purpose, as well as future proofed? We know we have good staff who are there to deliver services. We just need more of them.

Hallowe'en is coming and we know every single Halloween there is huge pressure on the fire service, as there has been in Dublin during Covid because they also provide emergency ambulance cover for the city and beyond. People need to remember that we are not just talking about fire appliances. A huge vote of thanks needs to go out to all of those who work in the fire service.

Disaster is staring us in the face. The fire brigade service is not capable, due to a lack of resources, in particular of fire engines and personnel, to deal with a major incident in this city if it happens, given that it also has to deal with many other issues. We heard harrowing tales of people who have to wait for ambulances or fire brigades after car crashes where there is no need for them to have to do so. We also heard of the fire brigade service in this city scrambling around England looking for second-hand obsolete appliances to replace the stock that is collapsing in this city.

As my colleague said, there are times when there are no appliances available. On Monday in my area, Dolphin's Barn, three of the appliances in the station were totally off the road. On another day 30% of the fleet of the whole city was out of action and was not capable of being called out. There is lack of aerial appliances. We know that the fire service is crying out for the HSE to pay Dublin City Council the money it is due so that it can invest properly in the service. Beyond that, a lot more investment needs to happen.

I am taking this question on behalf of the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage. I thank the Deputies for raising this important issue. I would like to clarify that the provision of a fire service in its functional area, including the establishment and maintenance of a fire brigade, the assessment of fire cover needs and the provision of fire station premises, is a statutory function of individual fire authorities under the Fire Services Acts 1981 and 2003. The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage supports fire authorities by establishing policy, setting national standards for fire safety and fire service provision, providing essential training programmes, issuing guidance on operational and other related matters and providing capital funding for priority infrastructural projects.

Dublin City Council provides fire prevention and fire and rescue services for the four Dublin local authorities. It also provides an emergency ambulance service by arrangement with the National Ambulance Service of the HSE. Local authority fire services in Ireland are provided by 3,200 professional, competent and highly committed personnel at all levels in 217 full-time and retained fire stations. It is important to note that the number of fire service front-line staff has been maintained at a constant high level throughout the economic challenges of recent years, even when staffing numbers, by necessity, were reduced in other areas of the local authority sector.

Under the Local Government Act 2001, arrangements on staffing in each local authority are the responsibility of the chief executive. With regard to staffing in Dublin Fire Brigade, I understand that Dublin City Council, as the employer, has engaged in an extended process with firefighter representative bodies Fórsa and SIPTU at the Workplace Relations Commission. Unfortunately, the parties were not able to reach agreement on all the proposals, some of which are intended to alleviate pressures caused by current staffing arrangements. I encourage the parties to continue to use the State's established statutory industrial relations machinery to resolve the issues concerned.

Also in respect of staffing in Dublin Fire Brigade, I am aware that the most recent firefighter recruitment campaign began in September 2019. All recent fire brigade recruit training has taken place in the shadow of the pandemic, which has placed considerable additional challenges on the process. The first class of recruits from that campaign began training in April 2020 and have taken up positions across the brigade. A second recruit class began training in June 2021 and will finish this December to take up positions across the brigade in January 2022. A third recruit class will begin training early in February 2022, with a start date for a fourth and final class of the remaining panelled recruits currently under review.

The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage funds new fire appliances and specialist equipment under national procurement programmes. Dublin City Council was allocated four new class-B fire appliances in the latest appliance procurement programme, at an approximate cost of €1.9 million. Dublin City Council was also grant-aided to procure three class-B fire appliances in both the 2015 and 2017 programmes. Continued investment in the fire appliance fleet is one of the key national priorities for the fire services capital programme.

Dublin City Council received approval in 2018 to purchase six four-wheel drive vehicles for €170,000. In July 2019, the council received approval to purchase a new turntable ladder or aerial appliance, at a cost of €800,000 plus VAT. In September 2021, Dublin City Council requested approval for the purchase of a new turntable ladder, at a cost of €850,000. This application is under consideration by the Department and is likely to be approved in the immediate future.

The provision of enhanced communications and mobilisation systems for fire services across the country, including in Dublin, has also been proceeding over the past several years. The Ctrí project is delivering the next generation of communications and mobilisation systems for local authority fire services. All fire station equipment and radio communication terminals in fire service vehicles across the country, including Dublin, have been replaced successfully with digital equipment. While the current three regional systems have operated successfully since the early 1990s, the replacement of first-generation mobilisation technology is enabling us to develop enhanced resilience for 999 calls.

As the Ceann Comhairle said to me once here, a Deputy is entitled to a reply but not necessarily an answer. We asked what would be done to future-proof and to ensure Dublin Fire Brigade has not only the physical resources it needs but also the manpower and womanpower it will need to do its work. The Minister of State gave a list referring to recruits and the recruitment campaign. I have told her very clearly that there is a staffing crisis. Whatever is happening in terms of recruitment is not keeping pace with retirements from Dublin Fire Brigade. Therefore, a better effort needs to be made. I ask the Minister of State to convey to the Minister, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, the need to double up on the training of recruits just to keep pace with retirements. That is even before we get to account for the population expansion. The Minister of State mentioned one of the aerial appliances that has been purchased. What use is that if the service does not have the personnel to operate it? On 28 September, that aerial appliance was out of commission. It was not being used because the staff were not available. Staff are needed. Equipment is also needed but it is useless without the men and women to use it.

I thank the Minister of State for the answer. It does not address the underlying chaos and the crisis within the fire service. We may end up having to rely on the Defence Forces, as we have on other occasions, if there is a major incident or incidents. Sometimes they do not happen alone. There could be a major car crash in one of the motorways. The Minister of State should not forget that most of the Dublin fire stations also service Kildare, Wicklow and the neighbouring counties if they cannot address a problem.

As my colleague noted, the recruitment is part of the problem but there is nothing to prevent the running of two classes simultaneously, as has happened in the past. I urge the Minister of State to consider starting the predicted February programme immediately. At present, the recruitment is replacing only those who are retiring, rather than plugging the gaps and ensuring the service grows as the city grows, not just in terms of population but also in terms of height.

There are several areas where there is absolutely no fire cover of the kind required. Where is the Adamstown fire station, for instance? Where is the appropriate cover for the likes of Blanchardstown and Tallaght?

I thank the Deputies again for raising the issue. Bearing in mind the concerns the Deputies have raised, there are several important points I would like to finish on to put the circumstances into context. The prioritisation of work and effective management of all resources is, in the first instance, a matter for management in each of the fire services, based on their assessment of local risk, needs and resources.

On the staffing requirements in each local authority, under the Local Government Act 2001 it is the responsibility of the chief executive to employ required staff and to make such staffing, funding, recruitment and organisational arrangements as may be deemed necessary for the purposes of carrying out the functions of his or her local authority. I encourage both staff and management sides to use the industrial relations machinery of the State to resolve the issues under discussion, which affect the optimal use of financial and staffing resources in protecting and keeping communities safe in Dublin.

Since the onset of Covid-19, the Department has monitored regular reports from fire services regarding the impact the pandemic has had on staffing levels. During this period, necessary restrictions have limited opportunities for some fire services to undertake recruitment and training activities. However, recruitment, training and deployment of new recruits have continued in Dublin Fire Brigade. There is little doubt that fire services in Ireland, including Dublin, are provided with the best of equipment to undertake the difficult roles they have sometimes been called on to perform. All requests for funding from the fire services capital programme of the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage are considered promptly and have regard to local authorities' own priorities, consistent with national policy, the value for money offered by proposals, and the totality of requests. I will, however, relay the Deputies' concerns to the Minister.

Níl an Teachta MacSharry anseo le haghaidh an tríú ábhar. Mar sin, glaoim ar an Teachta Connolly.

Hospital Services

With the greatest of respect to the Minister of State, Deputy Feighan, the Minister for Health should be here. I realise he is a very busy man but what is happening in the hospital in Galway, which we call a crisis, is not a crisis; it is a chronic problem that has been going on for a very long time. In 2015, former Taoiseach Enda Kenny said it was not fit for purpose.

That sentence has been repeated ad nauseam by just about every Minister who has visited University Hospital Galway. What is the latest focus of the problem in Galway? Four nurses have resigned and left their positions because it is unsafe. We have learned of their resignations from reports in the media, which is interesting. We have not been informed of this by management.

I know the subject is extremely serious. However, I am reminded of Russian dolls when I think about the hospital in Galway. We have an emergency department, ED, that is not fit for purpose, and because of this, there are plans to build a new department, but it will not be delivered until some time in 2026. In the meantime, there will be a temporary emergency department, but it will not be delivered until 2022, with a temporary department serving as an enabling works project, facilitating the department that will be delivered some time in 2026. If that were not enough layers of the Russian doll, there is also a temporary temporary emergency department within it for Covid and non-Covid patients. Four nurses have left their positions. Dr. Fergal Hickey, the president of the Irish Association of Emergency Medicine, stated yesterday that all of the emergency departments in the west of Ireland are unsafe. Imagine that for a statement. Dr. Hickey has spoken of the lack of staff. In University Hospital Galway, there are 250 vacant nursing positions. I am standing here and I have difficulty in believing what I am saying. The hospital needs 250 staff. We know this from reports in the press, and from the nurses and the doctors, but not from management.

Dr. Hickey, who is a specialist in emergency medicine at Sligo General Hospital, has repeatedly spoken out. He spoke out again yesterday. However, I refer to a statement he made in 2017. He said that up to 350 people would die in the following year if the situation did not improve in the health service. Yesterday, he said that the department is unsafe. The staff and the INMO have said it is unsafe. Dr. Hickey said on the radio yesterday that staff have to search for space, whether it is a cubicle or a chair, in the emergency departments to treat patients. Can you imagine that? University Hospital Galway is supposed to be a centre of excellence. I have been corrected in that and have been told that it is only a centre of excellence for cancer care. Can you imagine these type of distinctions being made in a public hospital?

What am I asking for? I am asking for the Minister for Health to take a hands-on approach in relation to the hospital in Galway. I have documentation in front of me demonstrating the attempts made to elicit details of the problems and the positive steps that can be taken. There are plans upon plans, but the emergency department is positively dangerous. It is no reflection on the staff. The nurses have said that. Usually, nurses put up with things, work their 12-hour shifts and do not complain. They are complaining not just on their own behalf, but on behalf of the patients who are needlessly suffering and dying in the 21st century in a hospital that is supposed to be a centre of excellence.

I welcome the opportunity to address the House on the issues raised by the Deputy, on behalf of the Minister of Health.

At the outset, I wish to acknowledge the distress that overcrowding in emergency departments causes to patients, their families and to front-line staff working in very challenging conditions in hospitals throughout the country. I also acknowledge the work and commitment of staff to ensuring the uninterrupted provision of emergency care throughout the pandemic.

The HSE reports that emergency department attendances nationally have returned to 2019 levels and are exceeding them at some sites. The continued requirement for separate Covid-19 and non-Covid-19 patient pathways and ongoing infection prevention and control measures present additional challenges to patient flow in all hospitals, including University Hospital Galway. Unprecedented numbers of ED patients were reported as waiting on trolleys for admission in University Hospital Galway in September, with significant congestion in the ED due to high attendances, low patient discharges in the hospital, and a significant number of beds blocked for infection prevention and control measures. The HSE is actively working with University Hospital Galway and the Saolta Hospital Group to ease congestion in the ED. We continue to invest in University Hospital Galway to improve services to patients.

Approval has been granted to complete a temporary extension to the emergency department to provide additional accommodation. The temporary emergency department extension building will be single-storey, with a rooftop plant room and will be connected to the main hospital block at the existing emergency department entrance. Site works on the project commenced in May 2021. The phased handover of the temporary ED is expected in early 2022. The temporary ED project and associated works will also serve as an enabling works project for the proposed permanent new ED by helping to free up the site required for the proposed new block.

The development of a new emergency department at University Hospital Galway is key to addressing unscheduled care congestion and associated risk issues and meeting service demands. The proposed new ED will address existing infrastructural deficits, ensure compliance with national clinical care standards and address service capacity and risk issues. A small part of the existing ED will be refurbished and form part of the overall new ED.

The main ED, women's and children's block development at University Hospital Galway is a complex project and is in the early stages of design progression. The project is of significant scale. The proposed project will accommodate a new permanent ED, including clinical areas and ancillary support spaces and acute surgical and medical assessment units. It will also accommodate the labour and delivery unit, operating theatres, a maternity day assessment unit and foetal assessment unit. Other proposed facilities will include a neonatal unit, antenatal and post-natal inpatient departments, a paediatric day ward and inpatient ward.

The Deputy raised the issue of the resignation of four nurses from the hospital. I do not have any detail on that, but I will bring it to the attention of the Minister. I will also bring to his attention the staffing issue raised by the eminent consultant, Dr. Fergal Hickey. I do not have any information on that issue in my response, but I will raise it with the Minister.

I do not mean it personally, but that response is exactly why the health service is in a mess. The appointment of the two gentlemen who have been put in charge of Sláintecare does not fill me with confidence.

I refer to University Hospital Galway pre-Covid. Back in 2015, the former Taoiseach told us that it was not fit for purpose. The emergency department remains the same as it was then, except there are more patients attending and fewer staff. Yesterday, Dr. Hickey made a very practical point. He said there are fewer staff, more patients and fewer beds. We have never reached the full complement of beds that we need. In addition, there are no respite services in Galway, as I speak. They have not been reintroduced following the pandemic. As I said yesterday, we can drink and be merry, but we cannot provide respite services. There are astronomical waiting lists. We try to ask questions in a positive way and to work with the system. We say orthopaedics has the longest list and ask what vacancies there are in orthopaedics, and we are told that there are no vacancies in orthopaedics. So, then we ask why there are long waiting lists in orthopaedics. Then we find out that 250 medical and nursing staff are required in the hospital and the Minister was not made aware of that. What type of management is in place that is not making the Minister aware of this? What type of Minister do we have if he is not aware of this? I believe that when we get a Minister who actually feels sick at what is happening, we might make progress. After he or she gets over his or her nausea, he or she might deal with the reality on the ground and start to take action on the matter.

I have a letter with me today from a woman regarding neurology services, and the absence of neurology nurses generally nationally. In Galway, we need 12 of them and we currently have four. I could go on, but I have been doing this since I was elected in February 2016. Perhaps if I stop talking, things might improve. At this point, I do not even want a response from the Minister of State; I would just like him to hear what has been said. Perhaps the Minister could come back to me on this debacle in Galway. Indeed, "debacle" is not even the word that best describes the needless suffering and death of patients on trolleys. There were 41 patients on trolleys yesterday.

I have heard the Deputy and I will bring her issues to the Minister. It is acknowledged, as the Deputy rightly said, that the current emergency department at University Hospital Galway is unable to meet demand, which is contributing to significant waiting times and high numbers of patients waiting on trolleys for admission to the hospital. The development of a new ED at University Hospital Galway is the key to addressing these accommodation and associated risk issues. The proposed new ED will, hopefully, be reconfigured in a way that provides maximum opportunity to address all the elements for future emergency medical provision and the evolution of services in the context of hospital groups.

There is no date yet for the planning application for the main building, but the Deputy rightly mentioned the issue of staff recruitment and retention. There are issues with that and the Covid-19 pandemic has certainly affected many of those. There will be, and is, a major online recruitment drive. We would like to see recruitment happening sooner rather than later. I see staff recruitment issues in hospitals throughout the country, including the hospital I advocate for in my area. It is a process that can sometimes seem never-ending and one would hope hospitals would be much quicker in recruiting staff.

There is a lot of work ongoing in University Hospital Galway and, hopefully, working together with Saolta, the HSE, the Minister and representatives on the ground, the Deputy's powerful message will be brought back and we will deal with this very serious issue.

Sitting suspended at 9.52 a.m. and resumed at 10 a.m.