I welcome the opportunity to make statements on the beds available at the National Rehabilitation Hospital. I thank Senator Victor Boyhan for raising this important issue. Since 2016, I have been tracking it closely and in regular contact with the Health Service Executive on it. I welcome Mr. John O'Donovan from the HSE.
The HSE has advised that the complexity of the medical conditions of patients referred to the National Rehabilitation Hospital for rehabilitation programmes has increased significantly in recent years, resulting in greater challenges for the hospital. In response, in late 2016, management at the hospital reduced its bed capacity by 12 to enable it to provide a safe and appropriate level of care for patients from within existing resources. Eight of the beds were in the brain injury programme and four in the spinal cord injury programme. Thankfully, the position at the hospital has improved since. In September and October 2017 funding was secured to reopen four of the closed beds. Two brain injury programme beds were reopened in September and in October another brain injury programme bed reopened, with one in the spinal cord system of care programme. In late December 2017 additional funding was secured to reopen a further two beds in the brain injury programme through the assistance of the Health Service Executive's national social care division as part of its winter planning strategy for the period 2017 to 2018. As things stand, a total of six beds have been reopened at the hospital, five of which are in the brain injury programme and one in the spinal cord system of care programme.
The Department of Health is working closely with the HSE to maximise potential capacity at the National Rehabilitation Hospital. As always, the first priority will be providing safe and appropriate services for patients. The hospital was not in a position to reopen additional beds in early 2018 owing to the ongoing risk of infection through multi-drug resistant organisms, MDROs. The hospital has eight single rooms which are appropriate for isolation purposes in the control of MDROs. It has been requested to forward a proposal to the HSE for increasing these facilities in the light of the increased challenges associated with the admission of patients with suspected MDRO infections. The HSE most recently met hospital management on 16 April and was advised that a submission to increase the number of single rooms, above the eight available, was nearing completion. The hospital also confirmed that a submission had been provided for the national hospitals office on the reopening of an additional six beds at the facility. The proposal is also being evaluated by the HSE's community health division. The HSE's operations and service improvement division has also sought to reopen the same beds through the winter planning process for the period 2018 to 2019. However, such considerations will only be concluded by October and November; therefore, if successful, the beds will be opened after this date. The Government recognises the excellent rehabilitation programme which the hospital delivers and its excellent patient outcomes.
On capital development, the current priority is the delivery of replacement accommodation at the National Rehabilitation Hospital. The redevelopment of the hospital which is under way and which I warmly welcome will be a major enhancement to rehabilitation services. It will have a direct and significant impact on patient recovery by providing an optimal ward and therapeutic environment for patient treatment. An investment of €64 million will ensure the existing ward accommodation at the hospital will be replaced by a new fit for purpose ward accommodation block of 120 single en suite rooms, with integrated therapy spaces, a new sports hall, a hydrotherapy unit, a temporary concourse, as well as clinical and ancillary spaces. In addition, links with the existing building will ensure full integration between the new development and the existing hospital on the site. The contracts for development works at the hospital were signed on 28 August 2017 and construction commenced on the site immediately. The construction of the hydrotherapy unit and the sports hall is expected to be completed by the end of the year, with the remainder of the construction works due for completion by the end of 2019 and expected to be operational in 2020. Phase 2 of the redevelopment of the National Rehabilitation Hospital involves the expansion of services to include all existing therapies and support facilities to the new hospital. Funding for phases 1 and 2 of this major redevelopment project is provided for in the national development plan 2018 to 2027. It is part of an overall €10.9 billion strategic investment in health services under the Project Ireland 2040 policy initiative.
I thank the House for giving me the opportunity to address these issues. I look forward to listening to the contributions of Senators.