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Patients are caught in middle in Government/IHCA dispute - Ó Caoláin

23 April, 2007

Sinn Féin Dáil leader and Health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has said that public hospital patients are the sufferers in the dispute between the Government, the HSE and the Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA). Criticising both the Health Minister Mary Harney and the IHCA Deputy Ó Caoláin said they had "totally failed to provide equity of care for public patients as promised as far back as 2001".

Urging the Government and the HSE to proceed with the appointment of 68 hospital consultants as public only posts, Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

"Public hospital patients are caught in the middle and are the real sufferers in the dispute between the Government, the HSE and the IHCA. I welcome the fact that the HSE has advertised for 68 new hospital consultant posts. These should be public only positions. These health professionals are desperately needed across the health service and I urge the Minister for Health and the HSE to proceed with these appointments as speedily as possible.

"In 2001 the Fianna Fáil/PD Government in its Health Strategy committed itself to a new contract for hospital consultants to ensure greater equity for public patients. The target date for delivery was the end of 2002. The talks only began this year and have now broken down.

"The bottom line is that all new hospital consultant posts which are salaried from the public purse should be public-only with equal access to their professional skills for all patients based on need and need alone. The current contract which allows a section of hospital consultants to be paid handsomely for work in the public system while also working in lucrative private practice is indefensible and should not be continued in any guise. A new contract along the same lines would be totally unacceptable.

"The current dispute is an inevitable result of our inequitable two-tier public-private hospital system. Instead of working towards an equitable universal healthcare system, the Fianna Fáil/PD Government is promoting privatisation with its for-profit hospital co-location scheme. The HSE's position as the supposed defender of the public hospital system has been totally undermined in negotiations with the IHCA as a result of the Government's privatisation drive.

"Only a fully public system can address these contradictions and put the patient's needs back at the centre of healthcare provision." ENDS

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