Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Sinn Féin seeks transformation of Health Services based on equality

10 May, 2007

Speaking at the launch of Sinn Féin's Health proposals in Dublin this morning Sinn Fein Health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD said:

"Health is the single biggest issue of concern to people in Ireland in 2007. Yet so far it has featured very little in this General Election campaign. Our purpose here today is to focus the debate back on this key and critical issue for all of us. We want to set out Sinn Féin's clear vision of a renewed and transformed Health Service based on equality.

"The term of office of the Fianna Fáil/PD Government has ended with chaos in the health services. The crisis in A&E departments continues. MRSA is endemic in our hospitals. The talks on a new contract for hospital consultants are deadlocked. The Government and the HSE publicly disagree on the number of new hospital beds we need. And the nurses have been forced into a work-to-rule.

"I want to begin by urging Minister Harney to intervene immediately and to order the HSE to withdraw its outrageous threat to the nurses to deduct 13% of their pay if they do not end their work-to-rule this evening. The INO is meeting today in special delegate conference and the HSE is attempting to bully them into stopping their protest action. We fully support the nurses' demand for a 35-hour week and improved pay.

"The Fianna Fáil/PD government has left a trail of broken promises in its wake. They broke their promise in 2002 to end hospital waiting lists within two years. They broke their promise to deliver an additional 200,000 full medical cards. Yet they have proceeded with a scheme which they never signalled in advance and for which they have no mandate - the privatisation of hospital services through the public-private hospital co-location scheme.

"When challenged this plan to allocate public hospital lands and tax breaks to developers of private hospitals, the Government has claimed that it will 'free up' 1,000 beds in public hospitals currently designated private. In the last week of the 29th Dáil I asked the Health Minister how many beds would be provided in each of the eight co-located private hospitals. She could not tell me. So where does the figure of 1,000 beds come from? It is a fiction and an attempt to deceive the people.

"In contrast to this, Sinn Féin believes that healthcare is a public service and a fundamental human right. We have the resources in Ireland to ensure that everyone has equal access to health services that are both equitable and efficient. We also have the resources to ensure that factors which lead to poor health for many people, including social and economic inequality, are tackled effectively.

"In contrast to appalling record of the current government, Sinn Féin TDs in Leinster House have:

  • Stood firm in support of the public system and public patients and against privatization
  • Fully supported people campaigning for services to be retained in their local hospitals
  • Used Dáil time to set out our positive proposals for a universal health system based on equal access for all
  • Published a comprehensive policy - Healthcare in an Ireland of Equals - the most detailed health policy published by any political party in Ireland
  • Campaigned for Healthcare as a Right, meeting healthcare workers, local groups and the general public throughout Ireland.

"We translate our vision for the health services into three key proposals:

  • A new universal public health system for Ireland that provides care to all free at the point of delivery, on the basis of need alone, and funded from general fair and progressive taxation.

  • Fundamental re-orientation of the health system to adopt a central focus on prevention, health promotion and primary care (including mental health care), and on ultimately eliminating the underlying social and structural causes of ill-health and premature death, such as poverty and inequality.

  • Immediate establishment of a Health Funding Commission to report within a reasonable timeframe on the projected costs of the transition to an all-Ireland system of universal provision, taking into account all spending on health services under the current systems.

"We see decent healthcare as a right and we want that right vindicated. Therefore we would:

  • Enshrine the right to health and the right to healthcare in a future all-Ireland Charter of Rights and a future United Irish Constitution, and seek in the meantime to amend the current 1937 Irish Constitution to include these rights.

  • Enshrine the right to healthcare in legislation, and make this a fully enforceable right in Irish Courts.

  • Establish a Health Ombudsman to provide an administrative remedy short of the courts.

"Action is needed to deal with the causes of the current crisis in our healthcare system. These measures include:

  • Investing all Government health funding in the public system only, ending the two-tier public-private division of our Health Services.

  • Rolling out the promised Primary Care Centres throughout the state on an accelerated timetable.

  • A timetabled and fully resourced strategy to deliver the additional 3,000 hospital beds required.

  • Provide full medical cards for all under 18 and all under the poverty line.

  • Halting the over-centralisation of hospital facilities and reversal of cutbacks in services at local hospitals.

  • A plan for enhanced provision of essential public nursing home beds, community care facilities and home care.

  • All new hospital consultant posts to be public-only

  • Effective strategy to stamp out MRSA and other hospital-based infections

  • A new emphasis on mental health with 12% of the health budget ring-fenced for mental health.

  • Produce, resource and implement a comprehensive National Suicide Prevention Strategy.

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