Go raibh mile maith agaibh a chairde.
This Government’s list of failures and broken promises is extensive. From jobs targets to social welfare cuts, water charges to political appointments, they have come up short time and again. Their handling of our health services is a case in point.
Both Fine Gael and Labour made bold statements about health sector reform in their individual manifestos in 2011. In their coalition Programme for Government they committed to introducing free GP care for all, they committed to delivering a health service based on Universal Health Insurance with equal access, and they committed to abolishing the HSE.
The simple fact of the matter is that none of this has happened. And none of it is going to happen.
Through Leo Varadkar and James Reilly as lead Ministers and Kathleen Lynch as Junior Minister this Government has failed, and continues to fail, miserably, in its duty to provide a health service that people can be proud of.
In 2013, James Reilly, with his back firmly against the wall, said, and I quote “We will never again see 569 people on trolleys on a single day while this Government is in office”. He was wrong. His successor would go 32 better. Or rather worse. On the 6th of January this year, Leo Varadkar sat at the helm of a health service that left 601 patients on trolleys and chairs waiting for admission to hospital. 601.
Delayed discharges, a lack of home care packages, a lack of nursing home beds – they’re 2,000 beds short in the Dublin North East area alone – these are all as a direct result of decisions taken by this Government. There is no walking away from that fact. In the meantime our frontline healthcare workers perform heroics on a daily basis.
Leo Varadkar’s “address” of the Emergency Department crisis in January has since precipitated a crisis in access. We now have 77,000 adults and children waiting for inpatient procedures - that’s a year on year increase of 28%. More evidence of the cost of their incompetence.
Two weeks ago at the Fine Gael National Conference Minister Varadkar called on doctors and nurses, who he and his Government forced to emigrate, to come home. This Ard Fheis should echo that call. You should come home, from around the world, and in your thousands. And at the next General Election you should kick Leo Varadkar and James Reilly out of office and you should replace them with a Sinn Féin Minister for Health. With Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin as Minister for Health, and with the help of you and your colleagues, together, we can, and we will, deliver a health service that we can all be truly proud of. Go raibh míle míle maith agaibh.