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Fine Gael & Labour are destroying our health services – Ó Caoláin

6 December, 2012 - by Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD


Sinn Féin Health & Children spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has said that the massive Budget cuts to be imposed on the Health services in 2013 will be devastating.

He said:

“The coalition is going to take a shocking €781 million out of the health budget in 2013.

“Fine Gael and Labour are destroying our health services.

“When they cut over €750 million out of Health for 2012, on top of the €1 billion cut in 2011, we said it was unsustainable and would cause huge damage to the health services.

“They then cut a further €130 million last August. And only this week Minister Reilly had to ask the Dáil for an additional €360 million supplementary estimate to prevent services collapsing before the end of 2012.

“Now Minister Reilly and his Cabinet colleagues are imposing a further massive cut – again unsustainable, again delivering hammer blows to our public health services.

“This government promised free GP care for all yet they are now planning to impose further restrictions on access to the medical card in 2013 so that fewer of even the most needy will have access to free GP care.

“This Government’s failed austerity programme has resulted in the savage cutting of 950,000 home help hours in 2012. Far from restoring these vitally needed hours to some of our most vulnerable citizens, the Fine Gael/Labour spending cuts in 2013 will mean more home help cuts, despite junior Minister Kathleen Lynch’s vague claim that there is a commitment to ‘restore’ these services.

“Anyone relying on a Labour junior Minister to deliver on that promise after this budget is living in cloud cuckoo land.”

ENDS

Full text of Deputy Ó Caoláin's speech follows:

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD, Sinn Féin Health & Children spokesperson
The members of the Coalition Government and all who support them in this Oireachtas should hang their heads in shame at the disgraceful Budget they have introduced.
For the members of the Labour Party in particular it is a day of shame. Where now are their claims to be the protectors of the vulnerable?
A leading member of the Labour Party and of Democratic Left and the Workers Party before that, once famously had a bonfire of documents in his back garden. Members of the Labour Party today must be regretting that they did not burn every one of the posters they put up all over the country in the last week of the 2011 General Election campaign: ‘Protect Child Benefit – Vote Labour’.
Even the political opponents of Fine Gael and Labour are shocked at the extent of their attacks on children, on the poor, on the sick, on the old, on the disabled and on financially struggling families.
Minister Noonan, with his talent for stating the blindingly obvious, said the Irish financial crisis could be summed up in one word ‘debt’. He then proceeded to pile more debt on household budgets that have already gone beyond breaking point.
The cuts to Child Benefit represent the single worst assault in decades on the incomes of families with children, hitting low to middle income families worst of all. And this in the wake of the Children’s referendum when Fine Gael and Labour claimed to be defenders of children’s rights.
I want to deplore the cynical spin from the Government – repeated by many media outlets – that the cut to Child Benefit is €10 per month. It is far worse – it is €10 per month for the first and second child, €18 for the third and €20 for the fourth and subsequent children. That’s a €58 monthly cut for a family of four and €98 for a family of six.
Have the members of the Government any conception of the impact of such cuts on struggling families? Tens of thousands of families rely on these payments to pay monthly bills that keep their children fed, clothed, in school and with a roof over their heads. And then, among the cruellest cuts, the Government imposes a reduction in the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance, severely punishing the most needy families. It was a children’s footwear tax that brought down a previous Fine Gael-led Coalition. Are there any brave souls among the Fine Gael and Labour deputies who will stand against these cuts?
These families will also be hit by the so-called Property Tax. It is not a Property Tax; it is a Family Home Tax. It is unsustainable debt piled on unsustainable debt for families across this State. I believe it will be resisted and opposed even more strongly than the Household Charge and I call on the Government, even now, to step back from the brink and not to proceed with it. I urge maximum opposition across the State to this cruel measure. Tax wealth not family homes.
There is a cynical but futile attempt at deception about the true impact of this Budget. That began with the withholding of the budget documents during Minister Noonan’s speech. It is being kept up across all Departments. And none is more farcical than the Department of Health.
Minister Howlin tried to give the impression that spending on Health would increase when the truth is that cuts of €781 million are going to be imposed in 2013.
Fine Gael and Labour are destroying our health services.
When they cut over €750 million out of Health for 2012, on top of the €1 billion cut in 2011, we said it was unsustainable and would cause huge damage to the health services.
They then cut a further €130 million last August. And only this week Minister Reilly had to ask the Dáil for an additional €360 million supplementary estimate to prevent services collapsing before the end of 2012. Next week we will have the bizarre spectacle of Minister Reilly coming into the Oireachtas Health Committee to address his supplementary estimate for 2012 just as he is planning to impose further unsustainable cuts for 2013.
Minister Reilly and his Cabinet colleagues are imposing massive cuts that again are unsustainable and will deliver further hammer blows to our public health services.
This Government promised free GP care for all yet they are now planning to impose further restrictions on access to the medical card in 2013 so that fewer of even the most needy will have access to free GP care. So much for the trumpeted so-called health reforms of Fine Gael and the Labour Party.
This Government’s failed austerity programme has resulted in the savage cutting of 950,000 home help hours in 2012. Far from restoring these vitally needed hours to some of our most vulnerable citizens, the Fine Gael/Labour spending cuts in 2013 will mean more home help cuts, despite junior Minister Kathleen Lynch’s vague claim that there is a commitment to ‘restore’ these services. Anyone relying on a Labour junior Minister to deliver on that promise after this Budget is living in cloud cuckoo land.
I want to describe the reality of those home help cuts with some examples. I cited them to the Health Minister in Committee last week and I do so again now.
In my own constituency people with disabilities and older people met last Saturday in Cavan town to protest at these cuts. One local example they have given me is a 94 year old man whose home help hours have been halved from 11 hours a week to five.
I have received a representation on behalf of a 99-year old man in County Mayo who is living alone and who has had his three hours home help per week cut to two.
In County Cork my colleague Deputy McLellan tells me of a woman aged 82 who lives alone, suffered clots on her lung earlier this year, requires oxygen on a 24-hour basis, takes medication for her breathing twice a day and is also on Warfarin. She had 1 hour home help 4 mornings per week and a half hour in the evening and also 2 night visits per week to help with oxygen. Her morning home help visits are being cut by 15 minutes per day and the night time visits are being cut altogether.
In Galway we have seen a mother completely robbed of her 5 hours a week home help as she tries to provide 24/7 care for her severely disabled 6-year-old son. This was done without any assessment.
It seems that parents of children with severe disabilities are being especially badly affected.
In Limerick another mother with a severely disabled son had her hours cut by half. I note that Minister of State Jan O’Sullivan has told the Limerick Leader that the cut to this family was not right. Where stands that junior Minister now in the light of this Budget?
Both Labour and Fine Gael vehemently opposed the prescription charges for medical card holders imposed by Mary Harney – now they have TREBLED those charges to €1.50 per item and increased the monthly maximum payment from €10 per month to €19.50 per month.
Health Minister James Reilly has failed to deliver the promised reductions in the exorbitant price of medicines in this State – instead he is passing the cost on to patients with higher prescription charges and the increase of the threshold for the Drugs Payment Scheme from €132 to €144 per month.
This latter cut is yet another attack on those families and individuals on the margins of poverty. These are people whose incomes are just above the threshold for qualification for the medical card. They must bear the full cost of GP visits and of medication – now up to €144 per month. They are facing the full range of cuts in this Budget – especially the PRSI increases and the Child Benefit reductions.
The health needs of older people in particular are attacked in this Budget. People over 70 with an income of between €600 and €700 per week will lose their medical card and will instead receive the GP-only card.
This Budget is a recipe for deeper poverty and poorer health, especially for low to middle income families with children and for older people.
We reject this Budget. We stand shoulder to shoulder with those who bear the brunt of its attacks and we will campaign and work ever more vigorously for a real alternative, a true Republic in this land and equality for all the people of Ireland.
ENDS

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