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Money spent on tax breaks for private hospitals could pay for cervical cancer vaccination programme – Morgan

6 November, 2008

Speaking in the Dáil today on the decision to axe the cervical cancer vaccination programme Sinn Féin TD Arthur Morgan said the money spent on tax breaks for private hospitals could have paid for the programme. Deputy Morgan also criticised the manner of the announcement from the Department of Health saying it was timed late in the day on the day of the US presidential election when opposition spokespersons would find it difficult to respond.

Deputy Morgan said, "The decision by the Minister for Health & Children Mary Harney to cancel the cervical cancer vaccination programme is an absolute disgrace. The Minister announced this programme only three months ago and now it has been axed.

"The manner of the announcement was also a disgrace. The news was sneaked out under the door on the day of the US presidential election. The press release was apparently timed to go out after Order of Business had concluded here in the Dáil, and of course, late in the day when it would be difficult for Opposition spokespersons to respond.

"The programme was designed to prevent the development of cancer in women and the Minister's hatchet job is another attack on public health by a Minister and a Government whose stewardship of our health system has been disastrous.

"This public health programme is now among the first to go on the grounds of cost. Yet the Budget left intact the tax breaks for the developers of private hospitals. Estimates for the cost of the vaccination programme vary between €10 and €14 million. Yet in the year 2006 alone - the latest year for which figures are available - this Government gave tax breaks worth €10.6 million to the developers of private for-profit hospitals. In a budget that slashed public services those tax breaks were left untouched. They could have paid for this vaccination programme. Also untouched in the budget was this Minister's and this government totally discredited private hospital co-location scheme. The PDs might be about to disappear but their Thatcherite polices are alive and well in this Government.

"Savings could and should have been made on tax breaks for the private health industry, not on programmes that will enhance the health of women and prevent much greater cost in the future both in terms of the well-being of individuals and the cost to the health service of treatment.

"Let us not forget that we are talking here about preventing cancer and saving the lives of women." ENDS

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