Sinn Fein's eleven public representatives in Donegal have written an open letter to Minister Harris, which they will present to him at the hospital this afternoon.
The document, signed by Deputy Pearse Doherty, Senator Padraig Mac Lochlainn and the party's nine county councillors outlines what the party describes as "the historical funding discrimination that our county's major hospital has endured".
The average funding allocation per inpatient to hospitals across the State last year was €6,890. However, Letterkenny University Hospital has been provided with the lowest budget of the top ten hospitals at €4,788 per inpatient.
The four Dublin hospitals in the top ten all have funding allocations of over €10,000 per inpatient. St Jame’s Hospital reaching a comparatively huge €13,750. That means that the Dublin Hospitals are receiving two to three times more than Letterkenny University Hospital.
Ten largest hospitals
Budget allocation per inpatient
1. Galway University Hospital- €7,366
2. Cork University Hospital – €8,395
3. Limerick University Hospital- €6,386
4. Our Lady of Lourdes, Drogheda- €4,844
5. Beaumont Hospital, Dublin- €10,606
6. Letterkenny University Hospital- €4,788
7. St James Hospital, Dublin- €13,750
8. Waterford Regional Hospital- €6,910
9. Mater University Hospital, Dublin- €10,761
10. St Vincent’s Hospital, Dublin- €10,833
Theses gaps in funding can be explained to some extent by the complexity of procedures and range of specialities at each hospital and that is fair enough but the only conclusion for the huge gaps in some cases, is discrimination.
PATIENTS ON TROLLEYS AND THE FULL CAPACITY PROTOCOL
The full capacity protocol has been deployed at Letterkenny University Hospital almost 90 times this year. That is a truly remarkable one third of the time.
Of course, the repeated deployment of the protocol has a knock on effect on the huge numbers of people across the county awaiting hospital appointments and operations.
This is a whole of health service crisis in Donegal, the consequence of years of chronic underinvestment in our primary health care system, our community hospitals, nursing units and Letterkenny University Hospital.
And despite the repeated deployment of the protocol, the numbers of Donegal patients on trolleys is worse than ever this year. Huge numbers of Donegal patients and their loved ones continue to experience the indignity of the long waits and the trolley.
HOSPITAL WAITING LISTS
There are more than 15,000 Donegal people on hospital waiting lists, almost 4,500 of whom have been waiting for more than 9 months.
We need a clear plan from Government for investment in the public health system to address this ongoing crisis. Investment in the public health system, and not outsourcing to the private sector, is the solution to the current crisis gripping hospitals.
The real solution to the crisis lies in recruitment and retention of staff, and the reopening of beds closed in our hospitals by successive Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael governments. Outsourcing to the private sector through the National Treatment Purchase Fund is only a sticking plaster and short term solution.
SPENDING ON AGENCY STAFF AT LETTERKENNY UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL
Letterkenny University Hospital spent €9.752 million euro on agency staff last year. This spend has doubled over the previous four years with expenditure of €4.652 million euro in 2011. Minister, we assume that you agree that this level of spend is scandalous.
Rather than investing in the recruitment of the necessary numbers of nurses and doctors, we are paying private companies multiples of this for temporary agency staff.
It is bad enough that Letterkenny University Hospital is seriously discriminated against in funding as we have pointed out but the limited money our major county hospital is allocated is misspent in this way.
Unfortunately the level of investment in our health service announced in the budget supported by the Government and Fianna Fáil will not be nearly enough to adequately reverse the years of neglect. We ask you to urgently review the investment announced in Budget 2017.
We also ask you to urgently review the system of funding for our hospitals so that the funding discrimination endured by Letterkenny University Hospital is brought to an end once and for all.
Pearse Doherty, TD