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Minister for Health must answer questions in Dáil without delay - O’ Reilly

16 May, 2016 - by Louise O'Reilly TD

Sinn Féin Health Spokesperson Louise O’Reilly TD has called on the Government to bring forward a debate on health and health reform given the revelations today in the first two months of 2016, more than 8,600 patients waited on trolleys for over a day before being admitted to hospital and that more than 2,700 of those were aged over 75.

Highlighting that the Minister will not be answering questions until the 2nd June, Deputy O’Reilly criticised the delay saying that the Programme for Government was scant on detail on how this crisis would be dealt with, with the Dáil having to wait almost three weeks to try get answers.

Deputy O’Reilly said:

“The Programme for Government in respect of health is high on aspiration but scant on detail. Indeed, without any parameters for funding or planning, and without any costings, this document reads like a child’s letter to Santy. What is more startling is that in the same breath as promising to cut waiting lists, increase GPs and deal with the trolley crisis, the Government are essentially packaging the privatisation of our health service.

“The Minister for Health will not be in the House to answer any questions on health until the 2nd of June and no committee structures have been set up as yet, so we are being left in the dark on the shape of health policy. It is unacceptable that with a crisis in health, alongside a Programme for Government which throws up a myriad of questions, we have to wait almost three weeks to try get answers.

“The Minister has to take action now. Long term promises are of absolutely no use in terms of the immediate problem that is growing by the day. Today’s figures show that. There are increased numbers of citizens; many of them elderly, on trolleys; there are delayed discharges, a lack of home care packages, and a lack of nursing home beds. The crisis in health is becoming the norm and this is unacceptable.

“The reasons for waiting lists and overcrowding are complex but this is not reflected in the Programme for Government. Not only has the failure to provide sufficient funding to our public health system been a contributory factor but the system is dealing with insufficient staff numbers, closed beds and inadequate facilities. None of this will be addressed under the umbrella of what is being proposed. The Government cannot deliver capacity for emergency and acute services, improve waiting lists for hospital procedures or ensure universal care when the threat of privatisation looms large.  

“Our health service is in crisis and this is not because of the lack of effort from the people working in the health system but due to the under resourcing and the failure to develop a high quality universal public health system in Ireland. Moving to privatise the system will not help this. It will further entrench inequality.

“The Minister has said that he wants an all-party committee to develop a single long term plan for healthcare over ten years. Sinn Féin will not support the divide and conquer blueprint to privatisation that we see in this document. If the Minister is serious about cross-party consensus and dealing with the health crisis, he should come to the House as a matter of priority before the 2nd of June and outline his plans and how he envisages working with all parties and none on this issue. 

“Trolley numbers and waiting lists show that we need to develop a properly funded universal health care system in Ireland that can provide equal and timely access to high quality treatment for all our citizens. We cannot long finger this issue and the new Minister has a responsibility to come to the House and address this.” ENDS

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