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No progress can be made in Health under FF/PD government

27 October, 2005


Sinn Féin Health spokesperson and Dail leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has questioned how progress can be made "when the two parties in Government disagree fundamentally in their diagnosis of what ails the system." Deputy Ó Caoláín pointed out that the Fianna Fáil said, before the lst general election, that it wanted "the end of the two-tier health system" yet the PD Táiniste Mary Harney denies that we have a two-tier system.

Speaking on the Private Members Motion this evening he said, "Sinn Féin want to end the two-tier public-private system, the apartheid in the Irish health services. Before the last General Election Fianna Fáil said it wanted "the end of the two-tier health system". This year, the Tánaiste has introduced a scandalous plan to give land on public hospital sites to the developers of private hospitals. And in so doing the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, Mary Harney, denied that we have a two-tier system. How can we make progress when the two parties in Government disagree fundamentally in their diagnosis of what ails the system?

"It is by no means the only inconsistency. If the principle of universal access to the General Medical Services Scheme is accepted for the over-70s, why is it not accepted for those under 18, or for the whole population? According to a reply to my Dáil Question today the Tánaiste's Department estimates that the additional cost of granting medical cards to all those under 18 years of age would be €223 million. The total cost of the PPARS and FISP fiascos, plus the useless electronic voting machines is €245 million - well in excess of what would be needed to give medical card cover to all those under 18 and at 2005 prices.

"This Government has had eight years to put right the fundamental inequality and inefficiency that blights our health service and for which successive governments are directly responsible. They have failed. Unlike the many dedicated healthcare workers who care for patients against the odds, the FF/PD government has let patients down." ENDS

Full speech follows:

Ba mhaith liom tacú leis an rún ar mo shon féin agus ar son Teachtaí Shinn Féin. Arís eile táimíd ag plé géarchéim sa chóras sláinte. Arís eile, nl ag an Rialtas mar freagra ach féin-mholadh.

I support the motion and I oppose the Government amendment. I challenge the Government to go to the doorsteps of Ireland and ask the people to sign up to the hymn of praise of its health record and of the performance of the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children that they has been presented here tonight.

They will receive a very cold reception in the households of County Monaghan. Once again, a tragedy in my native community is the focus of a motion on health before this House. The death of Pat Joe Walsh outraged people throughout Ireland. It was needless. It was avoidable. And it was the system which killed him -- a system that dictates that emergency surgery cannot be performed in Monaghan General Hospital. The doors of the operating theatre were literally locked against Pat Joe Walsh. Those with the skill to save his life were prevented from doing so in that hospital.

I want to emphasise again that no matter what the inquiry finds out about the availability of beds in other hospitals, the fact remains that it was in Monaghan that this man could and should have been operated on, if only the staff had been allowed to do so.

I tabled a Dáil Question on the inquiry into the death of Patrick Walsh. I asked for the terms of reference. The Tánaiste replied today that the Terms of Reference are still being finalised. The report is for completion within a timeframe of eight weeks. I would like the [Minister/Minister of State] to tell me, in replying to the debate this evening, if that is eight weeks from the date of the initiation of the inquiry or from the completion of the terms of reference. I also want to put on record for the notice of the HSE and the Minister that the terms of reference should include investigation of the policies at HSE and Governmental level that contributed directly to the latest tragedy. It should not be confined to the immediate circumstances of the admission of Patrick Walsh to Monaghan and his subsequent death.

The Taoiseach stated here last week that no protocols would prevent a medical person doing his or her duty. But they do, and have done repeatedly in the case of Monaghan and other hospitals where services have been taken away needlessly. The Taoiseach met the Community Alliance on the day of Patrick Walsh's death. He surely knows the depth of feeling in County Monaghan about the downgrading of our hospital. There is also a determination and I can assure him and this Government that we will not rest until the downgrading of the hospital is halted and services are restored.

It was revealed last week that a patient with a life threatening vascular swelling had to be taken by his family from Our Lady's Hospital in Navan to a Dublin hospital because of the unavailability of vascular cover in the North East region. The patient was operated on in St. Vincent's Hospital and was told later by the surgeon that if he had not been brought to Dublin he would not have survived.

This is yet another case which shows that people in the North East region -- Cavan, Monaghan, Louth and Meath -- are being treated like second-class citizens where acute hospital services are concerned. News of the plight of this elderly man and of his family came less than a week after the death of Patrick Walsh. It reinforces the demand for a complete revision of acute hospital policy so that life saving services can be accessible to all, regardless or geographic location or ability to pay.

Sinn Féin want to end the two-tier public-private system, the apartheid in the Irish health services. Before the last General Election Fianna Fáil said it wanted "the end of the two-tier health system". This year, the Tánaiste has introduced a scandalous plan to give land on public hospital sites to the developers of private hospitals. And in so doing the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, Mary Harney, denied that we have a two-tier system. How can we make progress when the two parties in Government disagree fundamentally in their diagnosis of what ails the system?

It is by no means the only inconsistency. If the principle of universal access to the General Medical Services Scheme is accepted for the over-70s, why is it not accepted for those under 18, or for the whole population? According to a reply to my Dáil Question today the Tánaiste's Department estimates that the additional cost of granting medical cards to all those under 18 years of age would be €223 million. The total cost of the PPARS and FISP fiascos, plus the useless electronic voting machines is €245 million - well in excess of what would be needed to give medical card cover to all those under 18 and at 2005 prices.

This Government has had eight years to put right the fundamental inequality and inefficiency that blights our health service and for which successive governments are directly responsible. They have failed. Unlike the many dedicated healthcare workers who care for patients against the odds, the FF/PD government has let patients down.

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