Kildare County Council recently allowed the HSE to extend the planning permission for an extension to Naas General Hospital. The proposed extension includes new endoscopy and day services units. Physical medicine and oncology departments would also be constructed.
The extension of planning permission is welcome. However, it highlights how the HSE have stalled on this project since planning permission was first granted in 2014. I have visited the hospital to inspect existing facilities and I have raised this in the Dáil with Minister Simon Harris. It is clear how badly needed the endoscopy unit in particular is needed. Therefore, I welcome this decision but it is imperative that the HSE present concrete plans and funding as soon as possible to develop this much-needed extension.
Disability Allowance applicants are facing a long delay in having their application processed. Constituents have contacted me as they have been waiting weeks since applying for Disability Allowance. Applicants are unable to work and are facing the added stress of delays in payments being approved.
Following my enquiries, it emerged that the office was processing applications received 14 weeks previously. This delay is probably the result of the poor resources available to a limited number of staff.
The Government does not seem to realise that lives are affected by this backlog. This is typical of the dysfunction that has become evident in the Department of Social Protection. Between delays in illness benefit payments and delays in the contributory pension review, it appears that the Government is not properly resourcing the Department and this has to change.
The approval of 34 extra parking spaces for Maynooth Train Station is welcome news which will complement the 38 spaces approved earlier this year.
I discussed parking capacity issues at Maynooth and several other stations with Irish Rail officials earlier this year. The expansion will be welcome to commuters who struggle to find a safe parking space.
While it is a small improvement, Irish Rail’s efforts to improve facilities for commuters are welcome. I will continue to liaise with them on issues affecting the Maynooth line.
Improvements such as this are vital as Irish Rail plan to increase capacity on the Maynooth line. It is planned to extend the DART service with electrification of the line by 2027 and capacity for 2000 passengers.
The waiting lists being experienced by patients trying to access the Child and Adult Mental Health Services (CAMHS) in Kildare has been criticised. Information released to me following a Parliamentary Question revealed that the average wait time for a non urgent routine appointment is anywhere between 3 and 6 months.
This can sometimes be longer depending on the demand for emergency or urgent appointments. This is despite an extra CAMHS community team being established in the Kildare area since 2017 to deal with population growth.
The continuing difficulties with the CAMHS service represent a real failure by the Government and the HSE to get to grips with the problem. Nationally the service has scarcely over half the required staff and until that is resolved, long waiting lists will remain.
It is frustrating that mental health services for children in Kildare are making little to no progress. Time is of the essence when dealing with vulnerable young people and they are being failed by a Government which has shown an inability to make the necessary improvements to youth mental health services.
I had the opportunity to meet Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg during his visit to Dublin. I discussed my Online Advertising and Social Media Transparency Bill to address electoral integrity issues as well as how to moderate harmful content to make the internet a safer place.
Facebook have recently introduced new regulations seeking to provide greater transparency in political advertising, which is welcome in the run up to the EU elections but myself and Mr Zuckerberg agreed that Governments need to set the agenda here.
I also raised my concerns in relation to Facebook’s recent appeal against their fine in the UK for data breaches and the 1.5 billion data sets which left Ireland on the eve of the GDPR. It was a very useful exchange which I hope to continue when attending the international parliamentary committee on disinformation in Canada in May.