Independent Deputy Seamus Healy asked the Taoiseach to take charge of the chronic situation in South Tipperary General Hospital matter personally and approve additional medical, nursing and support staff for the emergency department.
“I want him to approve additional beds and open additional step-down beds for the hospital,” he said.
On 25 March, Deputy Healy said he raised with the Taoiseach the absolutely unacceptable number of patients on trolleys and chairs in the accident and emergency department in South Tipperary General Hospital.
“I described the conditions on that day as reminiscent of those in the Third World,” he said. “I make no apology for this. Three weeks later, nothing has been done, despite requests from hospital staff and management and the HSE south east management. Today, there is a full-blown crisis in the accident and emergency department. The emergency requires emergency action from the Taoiseach.”
Deputy Healy said there were 29 patients on trolleys in the hospital on the morning of Tuesday, April 15. They were in the accident and emergency department, the corridors of the department, the corridors of the rest of the hospital and along the main public thoroughfare of the hospital.
“An individual sent me a photograph of a relative who is recovering from a subarachnoid haemorrhage but who is on a trolley in the main public thoroughfare of the hospital, up against a bank of vending machines,” he said. “Patients have absolutely no privacy. The bathroom and toilet facilities for patients are either totally inadequate or non-existent. This is absolutely unacceptable and outrageous.”
Speaking during Leaders’ Question he said the number of patients on trolleys in the hospital increased from 750 in 2011, when the current Government came to power, to 3,100 in 2013.
“The hospital budget has been cut by €11 million, or nearly 25%, and more than 100 staff have been lost,” he said. “The hospital is now working at 120% capacity every day of the year. Hospital staff simply cannot cope and, despite their working above and beyond the call of duty, they are struggling to provide a safe service.”
In reply, the Taoiseach said he would undertake to ask the Minister for Health for a report on the facts the Deputy mentioned in respect of South Tipperary General Hospital and he would advise the Deputy on the official response.
“The Deputy is well aware of the action taken by the Minister at national level in respect of reducing trolley numbers in recent years,” he said. “This action has been quite successful. Obviously, there seem to be circumstances in the Deputy’s local hospital that are not conducive to providing care of the best level, as the Deputy pointed out. I will undertake to seek a report from the Minister, through the HSE, on the facts the Deputy outlined in his question .”
Tributes paid to retiring Assistant Clerk of the Seanad
Tributes were paid in the Seanad to the Assistant Clerk of the Upper House, Jody Blake, a native of Golden, who is retiring.
Cashel Senator Labhrás O’Murchú said he often marvelled at her demeanour and stamina when the House sat for long hours and the courtesy she showed senators at all times.
“Her lack of arrogance was immensely important,” he said. “There is no doubt that Jody and Deirdre are an exceptionally dynamic duo, both of them with Tipperary connections. In a way, they underline the calibre of people who come out of Tipperary. It has been often said to me by people looking back on the records of others, including the background from which they came and so on, that an ounce of breeding is better than a tonne of feeding. In this case, that is particularly true.”
Senator O’Murchú said he believed that Jody in many ways epitomised all that is best in public service. It was important to reflect on that also.
“Very often the spotlight is on the Oireachtas and both Houses,” he said. “Even in the most exciting or over energetic debates held in this House, there was always a sense of calmness at the top table, which permeated down to Members of the House.”
The Cathaoirleach of the Seanad, senator Paddy Burke said Jody began her career in the Department of Fisheries and Food in 1975 and transferred to the Houses of the Oireachtas in 1978.
“She worked in various sections in the Houses, including the interparliamentary unit, personnel, committees and the Questions Office, before being appointed Clerk Assistant of the Seanad in 1991,” he said. “There are not many Members who were here at that time, other than the Leas-Chathaoirleach and Senators David Norris and Paschal Mooney.”
The Leader of the House, Senator Maurice Cummins said Jody Blake was certainly a treasure and they would all miss dearly.
“Many of us come and go through this House, whether on the Government or Opposition side, but Jody has been a constant for more than two decades, serving the daily administrative needs of the Seanad and keeping the wheels in motion,” he said. “She has always carried out her duties in a very efficient, competent and professional manner.”