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Health Inequality should set alarm bells ringing

20 December, 2004

Sinn Féin Health spokesperson, John O Dowd MLA has said that today's Department of Health report into inequalities of health in the North's population is an indictment of the complete failure of the Northern State and the British government to offer basic equality of treatment to Nationalists.

Mr O'Dowd said:

"This British government report shows the basic human right of having proper and equal access of health care is disproportionately denied to nationalists. Their own report clearly states:

  • Those areas with the worst access to health and social care facilitates have a higher proportion of Catholics
  • A person living in a deprived area (the majority of which are catholic) is 34% more likely to die than a similar person living in a non-deprived area of the North.
  • Lung cancer rates for all persons are 57% higher in deprived areas than elsewhere in the North
  • In areas with the worst health outcomes, there are higher proportions of Catholics, nationalists and single people.

"This report is a shocking indictment of the failure of the Northern state to provide equal access to proper health care for all citizens. Through a combination of low-paid or no jobs, poor housing and living environment and poor diet due to a lower income, Nationalists are less likely to have good health. In short they are still second-class citizens. If any other government or country were to be the subject of a report, which highlighted such major systemic and institutionalised discrimination, it would quite correctly attract international scrutiny and criticism.

"Today's budget announced by Ian Pearson will have a further negative impact on health service provision in the Six Counties and will do nothing to improve the glaring health inequalities which this report has exposed. Indeed, this budget will only serve to exacerbate these existing health inequalities with essential services, such as domiciliary care, child care provision and community-based health provision being further cut or totally withdrawn from those areas which suffer most from deprivation and disadvantage.

"Seven years after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement and 30 years after the fall of Stormont, this report shows the Northern state cannot provide basic health care on an equitable basis. This in turn shows that the British government is failing in its internationally agreed duty to provide Nationalists with the basic human and civil right of proper health care. Quite clearly, the British Government needs to take effective action to effectively implement the equality agenda across all spectrums of life in the Six Counties, and particularly so in relation to health.

"Indeed, I have today called for an urgent meeting with the NIO health minister, Angela Smith, to discuss the details of this report in the context of the budget for the health department announced by her colleague Ian Pearson." ENDS

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