Adjournment Matters

Hospitals Building Programme

I wish to set out for the Minister of State the difficulty we face in Schull Community Hospital. Recently, the Minister for Health, Deputy James Reilly, visited Schull where the first phase of the planned Schull Community Hospital has been more or less completed. I have put in a lot of political effort on this issue during the years as it is a project that has moved very slowly. Many years ago, I brought a delegation to Dublin, a minibus load of mainly elderly people, including one woman was in her 80s, to meet the then Minister, Brian Cowen, who likened his brief at the time to being like dealing with Angola.

Phase 1 of this project is almost complete and fantastic work is being done in this little community hospital which serves the Mizen Head peninsula, an area close to that represented by the Minister of State's former colleague, P. J. Sheehan, who was in the Oireachtas for many years. He was a political adversary of mine, but was also a friend. He will be 80 on Lá le Pádraig and I wish him well and wish him health in his retirement. With regard to phases 2 and 3 of this project, the people want to know when it is likely work on these will commence and when is it expected they will be completed? Is the money available for this project?

Statistics indicate that there is a high number of elderly on the Mizen Head peninsula, just like in other remote areas. The age profile in these areas is older and there are more people over the age of 65 or 70 years than there are young people in their teens and 20s. I hope the Minister of State will in the week that is in it have an abundance of good news for me on this issue.

Ní seachtain na Nollag í seo. Seo seachtain Fhéile Phádraig.

I thank the Senator for raising this issue as it provides me with an opportunity to update the House on the matter. As the Senator is aware, Government policy is to support older people to live in dignity and independence in their own homes and communities for as long as possible. Where this is not feasible, the health service supports access to appropriate quality long-term residential care, including the provision of financial assistance under the nursing homes support scheme. In 2012, with a budget of almost €1 billion, financial support was provided for over 22,000 people in nursing homes. The Health Service Executive is responsible for the delivery of health and personal social services, including those at facilities such as Schull Community Hospital in Cork.

Schull Community Hospital is located on the Mizen Peninsula which, as the Senator will be aware, has a higher than average number of older people per head of population. It is expected that the demand for beds at the hospital will continue to grow. The hospital, registered with HIQA for a period of three years, with effect from 25 June 2012, provides 21 residential, respite, convalescent and palliative care beds. A plan has been developed to bring the hospital to full compliance with HIQA standards. This is set out in three phases, with an estimated total cost of €2.5 million. Phase 1, with an investment of €1.3 million was completed last month. The contract provided for new accommodation for 14 residents and refurbished accommodation for seven residents.

In addition, the completed works ensured the hospital achieved a certificate of fire compliance. The Health Service Executive was the main funder of this development, with the Friends of Schull Community Hospital contributing towards fit-out and decoration.

Current constraints on public sector staffing and recruitment, the ongoing need to meet service and safety standards and severe financial constraints pose challenges for community nursing units. My Department is working closely with the Health Service Executive to develop an overall plan which will seek to protect the viability of as many units as possible within the funding and staffing resources available. The estates department of the HSE is undertaking a review of all facilities to establish their state of readiness for the registration requirements of the Health Information and Quality Authority after 2015. Plans will be reviewed and prioritised taking into account staffing available, the demand for services and provision in the area, the extent of works required and available capital funding. Phases 2 and 3 at Schull will be considered in this context. However, owing to the works carried out to date, Schull Community Hospital is well positioned, with much less work required, to secure registration after 2015.

Every effort will be made to ensure the highest standards of care will continue to be provided for all residents in a safe and secure environment and we meet the needs of those who need our services in the best way possible. I again thank the Senator for raising this matter.

I thank the Minister of State for his response, although I am not as reassured by it as I would like to be. In any case, I understand he delivered the statement on behalf of his colleague, the Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy Kathleen Lynch. I note, as did the Minister of State, the tremendous work the Friends of Schull Community Hospital has done during the years. Its members have engaged in collections and other fund-raising efforts and stated it will redouble its efforts to raise funds in the locality if a positive indication is given that phases 2 and 3 of the hospital will be completed in the next couple of years. I understand the group has raised in the region of €400,000 and that its members are prepared to go back onto the streets of the small village of Schull to raise further funds. The population of the village swells in the summer months as a result of its sailing and yachting facilities, but it is a small community which is doing tremendous work. Its fund-raising achievements are second to none and the community will redouble its efforts if it sees light at the end of the tunnel.

I assure the Senator again that its advocacy will be brought to the attention of the Minister of State and the Health Service Executive and taken into account in further decisions related to the project in Schull. I am familiar with the town, having visited some of the colleagues and former colleagues to whom the Senator referred. It is an attractive and popular area. The response provided by the Minister of State who comes from that part of the country gives a great deal of hope.

The Seanad adjourned at 1.35 p.m. until 2.30 p.m. on Wednesday, 20 March 2013.