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Privatisation of Primary Care Centres breaks Government pledges

1 August, 2008 - by Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD

Sinn Féin Health & Children spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has said that the Government is breaking one of the key commitments in the National Development Plan and the Programme for Government which pledges to implement a €2.1 billion capital investment to develop modern primary care facilities.

In reply to a Dáil Question from the Sinn Féin Dáil leader the Health Service Executive states that Primary Care Centres will now be "provided by the market, through rental of floor space, rather than from the Capital Programme (as proposed in the NDP)". Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

"Clear commitments were given by Government to develop modern primary care facilities as the cornerstone of a transformed health service. We now find that instead of developing dedicated primary care centres which would be in public ownership, the HSE is proposing to rent premises or seek developers to build premises which will then be leased by the HSE.

"It would appear that this is being done to make short-term so-called savings. But the plan is fiscally reckless as it will tie the HSE into long-term leases and see landlords receiving high rents from public money that should be spent on the provision of health services. The Government and HSE will avoid making the pledged initial capital investment, thus balancing books in the short term, but will saddle us with much higher and escalating running costs for primary care in the future. No doubt property developers will see this as a potential earner during the current slump but it is no way to develop vital primary care infrastructure.

"This week the HSE has taken out half-page advertisements in national newspapers 'seeking accommodation' in locations throughout the 26 Counties where Primary Care Centres were supposed to have been developed directly by the HSE under the National Development Plan. This is also a major commitment in the Programme for Government.

"This very significant change in the funding of primary care is yet another form of privatisation of our health services. Cuts and privatisation are being accelerated over this summer season when Health Minister Harney and her colleagues cannot be held accountable in the Oireachtas which is in recess. Sinn Féin will continue to campaign with communities against cuts and privatisation and for the development of primary care that is accessible to all." ENDS

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