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Health Service privatisation must be resisted – Ó Caoláin

5 July, 2007

The approval by the Board of the Health Service Executive of successful bidders to develop private for-profit hospitals on public hospital sites represents the privatisation of our health services, according to Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin. He was speaking at a Sinn Féin protest outside the HSE Board meeting at Dr. Steeven's Hospital in Dublin today.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said, "Today the HSE Board is due to appoint successful bidders for private developers of six for-profit hospitals on the sites of public hospitals - St. James's and Beaumont in Dublin, Cork University Hospital and regional hospitals at Limerick, Sligo and Waterford. Tallaght Hospital and James Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown are also due to have 'co-located' private hospitals on their sites.

"This co-location plan is being defended by the Government on the basis that 1,000 private beds in public hospitals will be moved to the new private facilities, thus 'freeing up' 1,000 public beds. However, the Minister for Health & Children Mary Harney has been unable to tell me, in reply to Dáil Questions, how many beds will be provided in each of the co-located private hospitals.

"Co-location has been widely opposed both within the health services and across the country. This is because people know that the two-tier nature of our health system is the root of so many of the inefficiencies and inequalities suffered daily by patients. The co-location plan will reinforce the two-tier public-private system. It will place private for-profit and public service hospitals side by side with the private health business claiming the more lucrative 'customers'. It will make it more difficult to introduce essential reforms such a single hospital waiting list for all patients.

"While the Fianna Fáil/PD/Green Government awards massive tax breaks and access to public land to private hospital developers it continues to downgrade local hospitals. Today we learn that the recently refurbished mammography unit at Ennis General Hospital will not be allowed to reopen by the Health Service Executive. As a result hundreds of women from Clare will have to travel to Limerick and Galway for cancer screening. In the North East region the HSE is downgrading Monaghan, Dundalk and Navan hospitals in pursuit of the discredited 'Teamwork' plan.

"What we are seeing is loss of local services and ruthless over-centralisation for the public hospital system while the private hospital sector is subsidised by Government to develop services based on profit not on need.

"Major concerns have also been raised about the corporate background of companies intending to develop the co-located private hospitals. Their parent companies have been mired in fraud in the United States where privatised healthcare is a social and economic disaster.

"Sinn Féin will continue to vehemently oppose the privatisation of our health services and to campaign for a renewed and reformed Irish healthcare system with equal access for all based on need alone." ENDS

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