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Harney must ensure dialogue between HSE and IPU – Ó Snodaigh

16 October, 2007

Speaking in the Dáil this evening, having secured a debate on the methadone crisis, Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD demanded that Health Minister Mary Harney ensure that the HSE commits to engaging in a process of dialogue with the IPU to resolve the crisis.

"The reality on the ground as a result of this action is chaos. The HSE has not released the locations of the 11 contingency dispensing centres in Dublin. Patients need to phone the helpline and are being directed to clinics that may not be remotely near their workplace or their home.

"Already I have heard people who are unable to access their assigned dispensing centre. This most probably means they are buying methadone on the street or have lapsed into using heroin again. We have been highlighting this scenario from the beginning.

"These clinics are only opening in the evening time which is often not suitable for patients. And Predatory dealers may start to congregate to target these people who are now in a vulnerable position causing great concern to residents in these areas.

"The withdrawal of methadone services is just the beginning of number of actions pharmacies throughout Ireland intend taking. These include a refusal to facilitate the Drug Payment Scheme on November 1st and to withdraw from the Medical Card Scheme on December 1st.

"Minister Harney has a duty to ensure that the HSE commits to engaging in a process of dialogue with the IPU. It is unacceptable that she has let the situation deteriorate to the current crisis. Leadership, compassion and constructive dialogue are now needed.

"Sinn Féin has been calling on the Minister for two weeks now to intervene in this dispute. I wrote to her on October 1st outlining the impending crisis. We received a letter today from her dated October 12th simply stating the matter is receiving attention. This is shocking.

"The Minister must stop shirking from her responsibilities and get this crisis resolved." ENDS

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