Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Ó Caoláin - SF opposes two tier health services

3 March, 2007


Sinn Féin Dáil Group Leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD speaking as he opened the health session of the party's Ard Fheis said "Sinn Féin has led the opposition to the privatisation of our hospitals and we will continue to do so. One planned private hospital that will benefit from Government tax breaks is going to have 100 separate private rooms, each with a personal computer and a television. And while they are building up the private health sector they are downgrading our local hospitals throughout the country."

Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

"They promised us a world class health service.

Now they don't dare to repeat that promise because they know that it is a sick joke.

We've had enough of them and our purpose in this debate is to declare to the FF/PD Government, and far more importantly, to the Irish people, that Sinn Féin is campaigning for healthcare rights and for a health system that serves all the people equally.

This is only the start of March but already in 2007 the shambles that is Government health policy and healthcare management has been repeatedly exposed. The daily number of patients on trolleys and chairs in A&E in February reached 412, exceeding the highest total for February 2006.
And this is after Health Minister Harney claimed that the A&E situation has improved. Minister, tell that to the people on trolleys and chairs in corridors and store-rooms and broom cupboards!

The Government's promised delivery of cancer treatment centres is being delayed because they want to use Public Private Partnerships to build them.

The fight against MRSA and other hospital-based infections has been hampered because of the cap on recruitment in the health services. Experts have stated that MRSA is now endemic in our overcrowded hospitals.

In the past few weeks we have seen crisis situations in A&E in Beaumont Hospital and intensive care in St. James's Hospital, in Dublin and in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda.

Only now are talks under way on a new contract for hospital consultants to ensure a fairer deal for public patients in our public hospitals. The Government promised to deliver that deal nearly five years ago.

After a decade the Government has failed to deal fairly with the pay and conditions of nurses, forcing them to take industrial action.

From this Sinn Féin Ard Fheis we send out solidarity greetings to the members of the Irish Nurses Organisation and the Psychiatric Nurses Association who are providing front-line services for patients. We are with them in their campaign for a 35-hour working week and for an end to all pay anomalies.

In the face of all this, Health Minister Harney and the head of the Health Service Executive cannot even agree on how many extra beds we need in our hospitals. She says we need more and as far back as 2001 the Government promised 3000 beds but has failed to deliver them. He says we don't need more hospital beds. Some leadership!

And what is the way forward as advocated by the Fianna Fáil/PD Government? They want to privatise our hospital system. They are rewarding multi-millionaire developers with land at public hospital sites and massive tax breaks to build private for-profit hospitals. They are pouring our public money into the pockets of companies whose bottom line is not providing healthcare but making money. They want private hospitals built beside public hospitals, reinforcing the two-tier system, with a fast track for those who can pay up front while everyone else has to wait in line in our hard-pressed public hospital system. This is an obscenity and it should be a cause of shame to any decent member or supporter of that party in Government which calls itself republican.

Sinn Féin has led the opposition to the privatisation of our hospitals and we will continue to do so.

One planned private hospital that will benefit from Government tax breaks is going to have 100 separate private rooms, each with a personal computer and a television. And while they are building up the private health sector they are downgrading our local hospitals throughout the country.

Just three weeks ago yesterday I suffered a heart attack at my home in Monaghan. My wife brought me to Monaghan General Hospital where I received immediate and essential care. I want to publicly thank all those who attended to me there and at St. James Hospital here in Dublin for their professionalism, skills and courtesy throughout my stay in both hospitals.

I thank too the ambulance staff who brought me to Dublin and, some days later, back to Monaghan General.

When people ask what it is that I and my campaigning colleagues in Monaghan would "settle for" regarding the future of services at Monaghan General Hospital we have only one answer - the restoration of all services taken from our hospital and the development of those services into the future.

Sinn Féin stands shoulder to shoulder throughout the country with communities campaigning to retain and further develop services at local hospitals. We reject the policy of downgrading and over-centralisation. We reject a policy that rewards multinational players in the healthcare business while depriving communities of public hospital services.

In the words of the Ard Chomhairle motion, which I urge you to support, we commend the Sinn Féin activists who have campaigned throughout 2006 and 2007 for healthcare rights. We resolve to continue our campaign for comprehensive, effective, safe and equitable health services that are available by right to everyone in Ireland and regardless of ability to pay. Our vision is of a universal healthcare system which is open to all based on need and need alone. We want to build an unstoppable momentum towards such a system and we invite healthcare workers, patients, unions and local communities to join us in, what must be, a national campaign.

On behalf of the people of Ireland, we demand our healthcare rights.

Cearta sláinte anois!

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