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'Time to say enough is enough' - Ó Caoláin

21 October, 2006


Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD, describing a health system where 500 people can wait on trolleys in A&Es in the winter, where the Government and the HSE are unable to agree on how many beds are needed and where the Government’s solution is to deepen the two-tier system through privatization, told thousands of people who attended a Sinn Féin health rally in Dublin today that ‘We have seen all of this and it is time to say ‘Enough is enough.’   

The Cavan-Monaghan TD said: “Despite the unprecedented wealth in this economy we live in a society that is very far from cherishing all the children of the nation equally.

 

“We have a two-tier public-private health system where wealth can buy the best care and skip the queue while those who depend on the public system must wait in line. How could it be any different when we have a Government whose Tánaiste Michael McDowell has said that inequality is a good thing for the Irish economy?

“To solve the A&E crisis this coming winter we need more acute hospital beds in place. In 2001 the Fianna Fáil/PD Government said 3,000 beds were needed and they were going to provide them. They have provided only 535 extra beds since 2001 and with our growing population we now have fewer beds per head of population than we had five years ago.

 

“But it gets worse. We now have a situation where the Minister Mary Harney and the head of the Health Service Executive Professor Brendan Drumm cannot agree on how many beds we need. Minister Harney claims they are still committed to 3,000. Professor Drumm claims we do not need them. What an indictment of a Government that promised us a world-class health service! What a shambles and what a disgrace!

 

“We have seen all of this and it time to say ‘Enough is enough!’ The only Republic worthy of the name is a Republic, which treats all its people equally. Nowhere is that more important than in health. Let us take forward our campaign for decent healthcare together.”

 

Full text

 

A chairde,

Molaim sibh uile a tháinig amach ar na sráideanna inniú chun ár gcearta chúram sláinte a éileamh. Táimíd anseo chun a rá leis an rialtas agus leis an pobal nach bhfuilimíd chun seasamh siar nuair atá géarchéim sna seirbhísí sláinte, go bhfuilimíd ag éileamh athrú bunúsach agus go bhfuil córas nua sláinte uainn agus beidh sé againn.

 

I want to commend everyone who has come out on the streets here today to demand our healthcare rights. Sinn Féin has called this rally to provide people with the opportunity to show their anger at the state of our health services and to demand real change – change that will deliver the best healthcare to all our people equally. It is very fitting that we are here in front of the GPO where the Proclamation of the Irish Republic was first read and where Irish revolutionaries first pledged that in a new Ireland all the children of the nation would be cherished equally.

 

Despite the so-called Celtic Tiger, despite the unprecedented wealth in this economy we live in a society that is very far from cherishing all the children of the nation equally.

 

We know only too well that the inequalities in Irish society today are carried into our health services. We have a two-tier public-private health system where wealth can buy the best care and skip the queue while those who depend on the public system must wait in line. How could it be any different when we have a Government whose Tánaiste Michael McDowell has said that inequality is a good thing for the Irish economy?

 

His colleague, the former Tánaiste Mary Harney, has now been Minister for Health and Children for just over two years. In that time she has presided over the worst winter crisis in Accident and Emergency units in the history of our health system. Last winter the daily number on trolleys and chairs in A&E units exceeded 500. These are men, women and children forced to wait many hours and often days on end in overcrowded conditions - unsafe, unsanitary and totally unacceptable. We have seen the spread of MRSA. We have seen the indignity suffered by older people in A&E units.  We have seen all of this and it time to say ‘Enough is enough!’

 

To solve the A&E crisis this coming winter we need more acute hospital beds in place. In 2001 the Fianna Fáil/PD Government said 3,000 beds were needed and they were going to provide them. They have provided only 535 extra beds since 2001 and with our growing population we now have fewer beds per head of population than we had five years ago.

 

But it gets worse. We now have a situation where the Minister for Health and Children Mary Harney and the head of the Health Service Executive Professor Brendan Drumm cannot agree on how many beds we need. Minister Harney claims they are still committed to 3,000. Professor Drumm claims we do not need them. What an indictment of a Government that promised us a world class health service! What a shambles and what a disgrace!

 

And what is this Government’s solution to these problems? It’s the same solution they offer to the housing crisis. Privatisation. Give more money and more land to developers. As we speak Minister Harney and the HSE are preparing to carve up land at public hospital sites and make it available to developers of private for-profit hospitals. These developers are getting tax breaks and land so they can build exclusive private hospitals beside our public hospitals. And this is from a Government whose main party – Fianna Fáil – told the people in their 2002 General Election manifesto that they were committed to “the end of the two-tier health system”. I challenged the Taoiseach in the Dáil last Wednesday on this and asked him if he wanted hospitals run by the likes of the privateer hospital providers in the USA that have had to pay out €1.7 billion to the US Justice Department to settle a raft of criminal and civil charges brought against it by the US Government. They want to do with our hospitals what they’ve done with Eircom and Aer Lingus. We say ‘No way!’

 

I want to commend people from throughout the length and breadth of this country who are campaigning for the retention of services at local hospitals. Successive Governments have presided over a policy of over-centralisation which has seen local hospitals stripped of services. This policy has cost lives and continues to cost lives and Sinn Féin is committed to reversing it. We stand shoulder to shoulder with communities in Monaghan, in Ennis, in Roscommon, in Mallow, in Tralee, in Nenagh, in Dundalk and throughout the State who are campaigning for health services delivered as locally as possible and that includes maternity services, accident and emergency and the long-promised but not-delivered network of primary care centres. We want to see the full roll-out of cancer screening and treatment services, including radiotherapy, in all the regions. We want to see the highest standard mental health services provided. In short we want what this Government has repeatedly promised and spectacularly failed to provide – a world class health service for the people of Ireland.

 

We are here today not simply to point out the current crisis in our health services and the failures of this Government. We are here to say loud and clear that there is a different way forward. We have a vision for change. We have a vision for Healthcare in an Ireland of Equals. We have brought our policy to people throughout Ireland and they have responded with enthusiasm. People who work in the health services have responded enthusiastically to our message that all Government spending on healthcare should be in the public system only with equal access for all regardless of how much money they have or where they live.

 

I want to pay tribute to people working in the health services. They are providing excellent care against all the odds. We need to build on their work, harness their talent and commitment and unite with them and with communities to transform our health services.

 

The only Republic worthy of the name is a Republic which treats all its people equally. Nowhere is that more important than in health. Let us take forward our campaign for decent healthcare as together we build a United Ireland of Equals.  Ar aghaidh linn le chéile.

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