Sinn Féin - On Your Side

HSE is a Quango from Hell

12 March, 2008

Speaking during a Dáil debate this afternoon on Reports on Breast Cancer Services in the Midlands Regional Hospital Portlaoise Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said the "HSE under Minister Harney and CEO Drumm has become the Quango from Hell. It is a totally unaccountable bureaucracy and an inefficient management established by this discredited Government to implement its grossly inequitable health policy."

Deputy Ó Caoláin continued:

"The Fitzgerald report highlights the weakness of management and governance in the process of review following the exposure of the misdiagnosis of women in the Midlands. It states that "the needs of the patients potentially affected receded". It speaks of "systemic weaknesses of governance, management, and communication for dealing with critical situations". This is a most damning admission.

"Minister Harney's commitment that this will not happen again cannot be taken seriously in the light of her failure to address the scandalous waiting times of up to 18 months for vital cancer tests such as colonoscopy as exposed last week.

"It was disgraceful for HSE Chief Executive Professor Brendan Drumm to try to shift the blame for this situation onto the people of Portlaoise and the Midlands because, like people in other regions, they opposed any threatened downgrading and loss of services at their hospital.

"We now have a situation where the Minister and the HSE are using public fear in the wake of the Midlands scandal to drive forward their policy of centralisation of all cancer services into just eight centres. Sinn Féin has argued that eight centres is too few and that large swathes of our population will be ill-served by such a configuration.

"The loss of mammography services in local hospitals such as Cavan General Hospital in my own constituency has been worrying for many women and their familie. It represents yet another loss of a hospital service in the North East region. There is real and justifiable concern now that local services are being taken away without the full cancer treatment services being available and accessible at these promised centres of excellence.

"No such centres are planned north of a line from Dublin to Galway so the North East region falls into a black hole, with people from as far away as West Cavan and North Monaghan having to travel to Dublin for treatment.

"Sinn Féin supports the development of centres of excellence for cancer care. But a revised plan for such cancer care centres must ensure that all regions are covered, that cancer patients do not have to travel long distances for vital treatment and that existing cancer services in local hospitals are fully resourced and of high standard. The removal of such services on the promise of as-yet undelivered centres of excellence is not acceptable.

"The Midlands cancer scandal has exposed the overall lack of coherent policy and planning at Government and HSE level. For example, Professor Drumm and Minister Harney have publicly disagreed on whether radiation oncology should be delivered through the public or the private system.

"It has been reported that the Department of Health has held discussions about the future of the HSE in the context of this scandal. A Department source has been quoted as describing the HSE as "a ship perilously close to the rocks". And this only three years after the HSE was set up.

"The lesson from this cancer scandal is clear. What is needed urgently is comprehensive cancer care provided in the public healthcare system and available to all based on need alone, regardless of ability to pay and without discrimination based on geographic location. Nothing less is acceptable.

"Sinn Féin supports the amendments and rejects the Government's motion." CRÍOCH

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