Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Minister cannot line the pockets of developers at the expense of the health of the Irish people - Ó Caoláin

31 July, 2006

Speaking outside Leinster House this afternoon Sinn Féin spokesperson on health, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD launched a campaign against the proposed gifting of public land to developers looking to build private hospitals. The Cavan-Monaghan Deputy described the proposals as 'lunacy' and said that 'the Minister cannot line the pockets of developers at the expense of the Irish people'.

Launching a poster to advertise the campaign, Deputy Ó Caoláin gave details of 11 protests to take place at the hospitals designated by the HSE for this scheme on Wednesday, 9th August.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said, "Sinn Féin is today launching a campaign against the wholesale transfer of public hospital land to private developers. We are obliged to do so by Minister Mary Harney's drive to privatise as much of our health service as she can, in the face of all logic and common sense.

"Her proposals will increase inequality in access to healthcare, undermine the public healthcare system and reduce its income, and use hundreds of millions of taxpayer's euros to line the pockets of the dozens of companies only too ready to leech off our public health service.

"As pointed out at the annual meeting of the Irish Medical Organisation, there has been, 'no coherent published rationale - no white paper and no debate in the Oireachtas - and no consultation with citizens, much less with the public hospitals concerned.'

"The cost of this scheme will be in the hundreds of millions for the Irish taxpayer. Private hospitals will receive €40 million in tax breaks for every €100 million they invest, plus the value of the public land on which the hospital is built. But they will keep entire control of the hospitals and could even sell them off after a few years.

"The obscene subsidising of private healthcare for those who can afford it by those in the lowest income brackets is thus not merely to continue, but to be exacerbated.

"There is an alternative. It is a publicaly funded healthcare system, where the best value for money can always be delivered. It is about rejuvenating the primary care strategy, effectively abandoned by this government. It is about investment to provide the healthcare system the Irish people deserve, not a monument to inequality and government indifference.

"On Wednesday the 9th of August, Sinn Féin activists will hold protests at each of the 11 sites identified by the HSE for private hospital development. These are, Waterford Regional Hospital, Cork University Hospital, Limerick Regional Hospital, Galway University Hospital, Sligo General Hospital, Letterkenny General Hospital, Adelaide & Meath (Tallaght) Hospital, St. James's Hospital, Beaumont Hospital, Connolly Hospital and Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda.

"We are asking all those who believe in a quality public healthcare system to join us and send this Minister a message that she cannot line the pockets of developers at the expense of the health of the Irish people."

Commenting on today's report in the Irish Times Deputy Ó Caoláin said, "The Government has been guilty of appalling neglect of the hospital infrastructure in this state. Today, The Irish Times reports that hospitals are to be punished for overspending by being cut off from funding for development projects. The hypocrisy of a government, through the HSE, punishing medical staff for exceeding their tight budgeting restrictions, with spending on health still below the EU average, is breathtaking.

"This government is no stranger to wasting money and being over-budget, whether on the LUAS, the Port Tunnel now 400% over budget, or the development of our road network, estimated to be ten billion euros over budget. I will be encouraging Sinn Féin representatives on the various Regional Health Forums around the country on which we have representation to pursue this matter.

"According to INO figures there have been an average of over a 160 patients on trolleys in our hospital A&Es over the month of July. This figure is only going to get worse as the winter months add their traditional heavy burden on overstretched hospital staff and resources. Yet the Government has provided only a tenth of the promised 3,000 hospital beds and even with all that were promised we would still have less beds in this country than during the economic crises of the 80s." ENDS

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