Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Call to action in support of public health service

3 May, 2006

Sinn Féin MEP Mary Lou McDonald speaking in Dublin today called on people across Ireland to unite in a major nationwide campaign in support of a public health system with equal access for all. Ms McDonald said "Beginning with a national day of action on May 13th Sinn Féin will be mobilising the length and breadth of the country". Ms McDonald said "Investing in public services must be the number one priority for any incoming government."

Ms McDonald said:

"Access to decent healthcare is one of the biggest issues facing people today. North and South there is serious under funding of health services as well as ineffective use of available resources.

"We have just come through one of the worst winters in recent years for Accident and Emergency units with up to 490 people per day waiting on trolleys and chairs at its worst.

"In 1980 there were over 17,500 acute hospital beds in the health service. Despite the increasing population there are now only 12,000. You cannot cut one third of the capacity out of the hospital system and expect a credible service to survive. People know this from their own experience. Hospitals are pressurised to work at 100% capacity ˆ leaving no room in the system to deal with even minor emergencies - most of the time they cannot even cope with routine admissions.

"Successive Irish governments, and especially the current coalition, have rejected the principle of health as a public service. Instead they are pursuing a policy of privatisation - the selling off of public health services and the creation of a two tier health system.

"So while public hospitals go from crisis to crisis this government is pouring public money into the private health sector instead of using public money to provide public beds. In effect, we are subsidising the profits of private healthcare providers.

"The fact is that the money spent on tax breaks for developers of private hospitals, together with the money wasted on the HSE's failed computer systems, would already have provided an additional 1,000 acute hospital beds in the public system.

"Sinn Féin's position is straightforward. We believe that healthcare is a right. We believe that health spending should go into public services not private health care. We believe that tax breaks to developers of private hospitals should end. We believe that subsidies to private healthcare should stop immediately. Sinn Féin would make this a priority in government.

"This is not a question of money. The economy is booming and the money is there. It is not a question of can we afford a first class health service, but can we afford not to have one.

"Nor is a question of ability, as our under-resourced public health service staff daily perform miracles in the hospitals and medical centres of our country.

"The issue of health goes to the very core of our society, to the values and principles that make us who we are. In 2003 the Institute of Public Health estimated that upwards of 6,000 people die every year in this country because of the inequality in access to basic healthcare provision.

"Is this the society that was envisaged when they said in the Democratic Programme that 'It shall be the first duty of the Republic to take such measures as will safeguard the health of the people'.?

"Is health and health provision to become another commodity, something to be bought and sold? Or will we build a new republic where the health of the people will truly be the first duty of its government?

"Beginning with a national day of action on May 13th Sinn Féin will be mobilizing the length and breadth of Ireland. I am calling on people to join with us to demand a public health system with equal access for all." ENDS

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