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Ó Caoláin - Government must stop reinforcing the scandalous two-tier health system

1 October, 2003

Speaking during leaders questions in the Dáil today and referring to last nights Fianna Fáil parliamentary meeting Sinn Féin group leader Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin accused the Government of being "obsessed" with the question of whether the smoking ban should be extended or not while ignoring the chronic state of our health care system.

Deputy Ó Caoláin asked was "it not strange that the largest party in this Dáil should be obsessed with the question of whether a smoking ban should extend to all or to part of a public house when the Irish Nurses Organisation is appealing to the Health and Safety Authority to immediately investigate the risks to patients and staff of overcrowding in A and E departments."

Deputy Ó Caoláin went on to highlight a litany of problems associated with our health care system including the fact that more and more patients are suffering on trolleys in our A and E wards with 35 on trolleys in James Connolly hospital in Dublin yesterday; the fact that during the summer trolleys had to be taken out of ambulances to treat patients in corridors; that health boards are facing financial crisis and cutting services to the elderly and to people with disabilities; that almost 30,000 people are on hospital waiting lists.

He called on the Government to confirm "that there is absolutely no chance that Fianna Fáil's pre-election promise of eliminating hospital waiting lists within two years will be fulfilled."

Deputy Ó Caoláin also described it as an "obscenity" that on this the United Nations International Day of Older People that "our older citizens who are public public patients must wait months or years for procedures that will give them some comfort in their twilight years while those with access to the private system can be treated in a matter of days or weeks."

He concluded by asking the Government to "stop reinforcing the scandalous two-tier system and start treating people on the basis of need and not wealth?"ENDS

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