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Micheal Martin's healthcare heaven a myth declares Morgan

3 March, 2004


In his closing remarks to the Sinn Féin Private Members debate on Health Care Delivery, Arthur Morgan TD said he would not "accept the unreal picture of a health service heaven, painted by the Minister last night". He said it wasn't the experience of people on waiting lists, people on low incomes or people who suffer and die on hospital trolleys.

The Louth deputy said that Sinn Féin proposed a model of "State-funded and State-delivered health care" instead of the unequal two-tier structure that presently exists. He said, "equal access to healthcare must be a guiding principal for all health policy." Pointing to the list of Government broken healthcare promises Deputy Morgan said the Minister had failed to deliver on 200,000 promised medical cards or to end hospital waiting lists which still stand at 27,000.

Deputy Morgan said, "Sinn Féin is committed to working for a National Health Service free at the point of delivery for all citizens from the cradle to the grave and funded from general taxation underpinned by a right of access for all.

"When we look at healthcare systems around the world we see that universal provision is not some pipe dream. There exist several models for universal care where the standards are higher and waiting times lower than we have in this state, such as Canada or Cuba.

"Healthcare cannot be subject to free market economics. Under such a regime the rich will live and the poor will be allowed to die."

He concluded by saying "all the statistics in the world cannot hide the chaos in Irish hospitals. Look in any hospital, any evening, to witness the trollied patients all along corridors and very lengthy queues at A&E units." ENDS

Full Text

I would like to thank all those who participated in this debate. Contrary to the assertion of Minister Martin last night this motion is as much about identifying the alternative model of health delivery as it is about failed government policy.

The Minister also claimed we recognised none of the progress made in recent years. Not true. In his opening statement Deputy Ó Caoláin specifically acknowledged such progress and commended those at all levels of the health services who have contributed to that progress with dedication. I do so again now.

But we cannot and will not accept the unreal picture of a health service heaven painted by the Minister last night. That is not the experience of the people we represent, people on waiting lists, people on low incomes denied medical cards, people who suffer and die on waiting lists and hospital trolleys. We will continue to expose this government's betrayal of those people.

Quite incredibly, the Minister stated last night that Sinn Féin was the only party in this House not to have presented an alternative budget. The opposite is the case! Alone of the parties in this House we have since 1997 presented seven pre-Budget submissions including proposals on health reform and taxation reform.

As far as budgets go, it is deeply ironic that a member of this Government should criticise us on this basis. The Minister for Finance has admitted that he does not know the cost of the range of property-based tax relief's for developers and property speculators which he is extending to 2006. These include tax giveaways for developers of private hospitals which is yet another example of the private health industry being subsidised by this Government.

The Minister said we were presenting no alternative. Again not true! Deputy Ó Snodaigh has also just alluded to this point. It took this Government with all its e fact he had to reveal in a Dáil Reply last week that a few weeks away from the target date for the FF waiting list promise there are over 27,000 people on those waiting lists. 27,000 people!

Equal access to healthcare must be a guiding principal for all health policy. Underlying this Government's failure to deliver an equitable accessible healthcare system is their failure to accept this principle. As my colleague Deputy O'Caolain outlined last night the core of the SF motion before you is the rejection of the public private mixed model of healthcare, the identification of many of the inefficiencies and inequities that flow from it, and the presentation of a radical alternative.

Sinn Féin is committed to working for a National Health Service free at the point of delivery for all citizens from the cradle to the grave and funded from general taxation underpinned by a right of access for all.

When we look at healthcare systems around the world we see that universal provision is not some pipe dream. Political will makes it possible. There exist several models for universal care where the standards are higher and waiting times lower than we have in this state, such as Canada or Cuba.

Sinn Féin is in no way unclear regarding the necessity to properly fund the National Health Service which we are advocating. Deputy O'Caoláin's made this quiet plain last night when he stated that "The model of healthcare delivery we advocate will mean that the wealthy in our society will be required to contribute more in taxation than they do at present. All taxpayers should be guaranteed that the best use is being made of their money. That is not the case at present. Instead we are funding inequity and its twin - inefficiency."

Healthcare cannot be subject to free market economics. This is what has been attempted. Under such a regime the rich will live and the poor will be allowed to die. This ideologically driven blind adherence to a free market economic model of health delivery is the very thing which created one of the most inequitable systems of health care in the world, that of the United States

All the Minister's statistics wont make a damn bit of difference to the expectant mother who is forced to give birth at the side of the road in conditions reminiscent of a third world country, it wont make a damn bit of difference to low income families who cannot afford to take their children to their GP because they have not qualified for a medical card, it wont make a damn bit of difference to the woman who finds she has advanced breast cancer which wasn't caught in time because the breast screening programme has not been rolled out across the state.

All attempts at 'reform' currently being undertaken are ere caesarean hysterectomies were carried out on women in a deliberate act of mutilation; the barbaric carrying out of symphysiotomies on women without their knowledge or consent, including is some cases after they had given birth. The procedures currently in place have not delivered for patients. it is not acceptable for the medical profession to investigate themselves. A full public enquiry is absolutely necessary to unearth the facts regarding how a core state service could go so wrong.

The Minister quoted endless statistics in relation to waiting lists and staffing levels. I will concluded by saying that all the statistics in the world could not hide the chaos in Irish hospitals. All one needs to do is look in the door of ANY hospital, any evening, to witness the trollied patients all along corridors and very lengthy queues at A&E units. The Minister did NOT address this crisis. Of course we know why he didn't do so.

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