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Harney's honeymoon period in Health ended in 1999

11 May, 2005


Sinn Féin TD for Louth, Arthur Morgan speaking during the Fine Gael Private Members Business debate on Accident and Emergency Units said that Mary Harney's honeymoon period in Health had ended in 1999.

He said, "You'd think she had no responsibility for the mess over the past eight years. She goes on as if she did her Leaving Cert. last June, got elected to the Dáil in July and took over the Department of Health in September, still wet behind the ears. We are expected to give her the benefit of a honeymoon period. Well, Minister, I'm afraid the honeymoon did not end last month - it ended about 1999.

Indicating that Sinn Féin wouldn't be supporting the Fine Gael motion before the House he said it was "not well thought out" and that aspects of it were "impractical" and could "possibly infringe on patients rights."

Deputy Morgan also rejected the Government's "self-congratulatory" amendment, which he described as "an insult to the intelligence of then Irish people." ENDS

Full text follows:

Contribution of Arthur Morgan TD to Fine Gael Private Members Motion

In speaking on this motion I want to commend the Irish Nurses Organisation for their ongoing campaign 'Enough is Enough'. We need more people at the forefront of our health services to follow their example. It was very heartening to see hundreds of people joining the nurses on their lunchtime pickets at hospitals throughout the country.

The ongoing crisis in our Accident and Emergency units reached a critical stage on 20 April when the Health and Safety Authority criticised the level of congestion in A&E Departments, saying it increases the risk of injuries, infection and violence.

The criticism followed a programme of inspection of 11 A&E units which started in March.

The report said there were many issues in A&E units which require immediate attention. It highlighted trolleys, chairs and medical equipment stored in fire-protected corridors. Eight of the hospitals were reported to fire officers because exit doors and corridors were found to be obstructed.

The report also said overcrowding leads to an increased risk of injury, infection and violence from frustrated patients. The report, which was given to the Health Service Executive, also criticised the lack of senior clinicians in A&E on a 24-7 basis.

In the meantime we have had the ongoing 'Enough is Enough' campaign by the INO. And what is the situation in our A&E departments now? The INO's Trolley Watch for yesterday, 10 May, reports that there was a total of 274 people on trolleys. There were 150 in the Eastern region and 124 in the rest of the 26 Counties.

But we need to look at this with a longer view. This Fianna Fáil/PD Government has been in power continuously since 1997. They were elected in 1997 and re-elected in 2002 on the promise that they would sort out the mess in Accident and Emergency units and that they would sort out the hospital waiting lists. But look at Minister Harney. You'd think she had no responsibility for the mess over the past eight years. She goes on as if she did her Leaving Cert. last June, got elected to the Dáil in July and took over the Department of Health in September, still wet behind the ears. We are expected to give her the benefit of a honeymoon period. Well, Minister, I‚m afraid the honeymoon did not end last month - it ended about 1999.

In 2002 this Coalition got elected on the promise that hospital waiting lists would be cleared altogether by 2004. We know the reality. We do not even have figures for the huge numbers of people on waiting lists to get onto the hospital waiting lists. A friend of mine contacted us yesterday. This is what he said:

"The next time the government claim that they have cut the waiting list they should be told that is not true, what they do is not to put people in the list anymore. We got a referral for Temple Street Children's hospital at the beginning of April, I rang in May to the hospital to know why didn't I receive an appointment and I was told that they were still dealing with referrals made in February. Basically I was told that I was on the list to get on to the waiting list."

"The main focus of this motion is the chaotic situation in A&E units, especially at weekends. Staff and patients are often in danger. Over-crowding is often worsened by people who are simply drunk. As the motion says the Government does need to implement health and safety procedures for staff and patients. It does need to deal with the escalating alcohol fuelled aggression in A&E units. We would have a difficulty with some of the specific measures proposed by the Fine Gael motion. I believe they are not well thought out. Some of them seem quite impractical and would possibly infringe the rights of patients.

"We will of course be opposing the self-congratulatory Government amendment which is an insult to the intelligence of the Irish people." ENDS

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