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McManus - Government record on health care is disastrous

29 March, 2003

Sligo Councillor Sean MacManus speaking during the health section of the party's Ard Fheis said:

It is obvious to us all that the Governments record on health care is disastrous and that their much-vaunted Health Strategy, announced over 16 months ago, is in tatters. Their failure is spread right across every aspect of health care provision, with lengthy waiting lists for public treatment in virtually all services. Nowhere has this reneging of their responsibilities being more clearly demonstrated than in the savage cuts in government spending on services for the mentally handicapped.

Instead of the €38million allocated to this sector last year the Coalition have provided just €13.3 million for 2003. These cutbacks are scandalous. At present there are over 4000 people on waiting lists in need of residential, respite or day care. These budget cutbacks mean that no inroads at all will be made to these waiting lists and that there will be no money for emergency placements. What then is to happen to patients whose parents or carers die?

Think about whom these miserable cutbacks will affect. We are talking about the most vulnerable people in this country, many of whom cannot voice their needs or concerns. The government's callous disregard for their situation will cause terrible hardship for the handicapped and their families, many of them elderly parents trying to cope alone with their adult children.

In this year, when Ireland has the honour of hosting the Special Olympics, we call on the Government to immediately reverse these cutbacks. Even in times of economic downturn, people with disabilities must be assured that funding to provide their vital services will be protected. Sinn Fein are committed to bringing about equality on this island, those with mental disabilities must be at the forefront of our efforts. Adequate funding must be provided to meet the needs of these special people.

Finally, while all the motions in this section on health are worthy of comment and support, I wish to briefly mention Motion 62 pertaining to the extension of the Breastcheck cancer screening programme throughout the state. I want to extend a welcome to Minister Martin's announcement on Thursday that the Department of Health and Children are going to extend this much-needed facility to all areas. For the past two years Sinn Fein in Sligo have campaigned for this extention. We fail to understand why the women of a large area of this state were discriminated against over the last three years by the non-provision of Brestcheck. We are also concerned by the two year start up for this rollout to our region. This will mean a minimum five year delay, much suffering and many deaths could have been avoided if we were all treated equally. Minister, we are not second-class citizens just because we live west of the Shannon.

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