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Harney's private hospital plan should be scrapped

20 October, 2005

Sinn Féin Dáil leader and spokesperson on Health and Children Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin has called for the scrapping of plans by the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children Mary Harney to provide land at public hospital sites for the development of private hospitals which will also receive massive tax breaks. In reply to a Dáil Question from Deputy Ó Caoláin, the Tánaiste admits that she has met numerous people over the past year in connection with the plan, including private commercial interests.  

Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

"The Tánaiste’s plan is a fraud. She claims that it would be too costly for the State to provide a further 3,000 public hospital beds as promised in the National Health Strategy. But the Government does not know the cost of its tax breaks for private hospitals – tax breaks that will form the basis of this new plan. The Tánaiste does not know how much her plan will cost.

"With this scheme the Tánaiste has shredded what’s left of the Fianna Fáil 2002 General Election manifesto health commitments. That manifesto claimed it wanted 'the end of the two-tier health system'. The Tánaiste has denied that we have a two-tier system while her private hospital plan will reinforce that very system.

"The Tánaiste’s plan relies on massive tax breaks for developers of private hospitals. Yet such tax reliefs are currently under review by the Minister for Finance and the Oireachtas Committee on Finance and the Public Service. Former Finance Minister Charlie McCreevy has admitted that he brought in the private hospital tax break on the basis of a lobby from a developer in his own constituency. No cost-benefit analysis has been carried out and the cost to the State of these subsidies to the private health business is not known.

"The bottom line is that public money should be spent only on public health facilities which are available equally to all. They should not be used to subsidise the private health business." ENDS


Dáil Question and Tánaiste’s Reply

*  To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the persons she has met in the past 12 months in relation to the development of private hospitals on public hospital sites; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

- Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin T.D

In the last year, I have had numerous meetings with many people in my office in Dublin and throughout the country where the development of private facilities on public hospital grounds was raised and discussed, often as part of wide-ranging agendas.   Among them, I have met consultants and management at Waterford Regional Hospital, consultants at Limerick Regional Hospital and members of the Limerick Hospital Trust, members of the board and management of St. James' Hospital, consultants and management at Connolly Hospital, Blanchardstown, the promoters of the Beacon Clinic and Hospital, and representatives of the management of the Mater Private Hospital.

 Since the issue has often been raised in the context of other discussions, it is not feasible to look back through all meetings and occasions where discussions might have taken place or advice or information offered. 

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