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16 October 2003 Edition

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Hanly report fails to challenge two-tier system

Commenting on the Hanly Report on medical staffing, released on Wednesday, Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD said it failed to challenge the way in which hospital consultants exploit the two-tier system and is a blueprint for centralisation and for loss of services at local hospitals.

"This is yet another report when what people want is real delivery of better services in their hospitals," said the Cavan/Monaghan TD. "The reality is that public patients are lying on trolleys in A&E units and beds have actually been closed when more beds were promised.

"This Report involves centralisation of hospital services. We've seen what this means with the closure of A&E and maternity services at hospitals such as Monaghan and Dundalk. People in the regions will suffer as a result. I predicted that the loss of services at Monaghan and Dundalk would be used as a blueprint for cuts in services in other hospitals. I know the reality of the pain that that causes to people. Hanly is that blueprint for over-centralisation and communities will suffer as a result.

"There are many services in local hospitals that are now going to be removed. The Minister's claim that there will be no downgrading will not wash with concerned citizens and healthcare providers at many of these locations.

"The commitment to no closure of any hospitals is a well worn response by the Minister, repeated many times in the case of Monaghan while services diminished. The people of County Monaghan will be very familiar with the language used."

Consultants unchallenged

"I welcome the planned reduction in working hours for Junior Hospital doctors in line with EU directives.

"While the Government is indicating more consultants will be employed there won't actually be any substantial increase in the aggregate number of consultants and junior hospital doctors and over the ten-year period. It will go from 5,800 overall to 5,900 in 2013.

"This Report highlights yet again what we've all known for years - that consultants are exploiting the two-tier system. They are getting paid top dollar for work in the public system and being subsidised with public money to carry on their lucrative private practice.

"The National Health Strategy promised to renegotiate the consultants' contract to address this injustice. That was in 2001, yet two years later not even the preliminary negotiations have been concluded. The Minister is today again promising a renegotiation on the back of this Report.

"What we need are consultants working exclusively in the public health system, salaried by the State. As Brennan recommended, all new consultant posts should be in the public system only. Hanly does not directly address this issue.

"This abuse and the other serious ills of our health system have been highlighted repeatedly. But successive Governments have failed to deliver the cure. Don't forget this Fianna Fáil/PD Government have been in office for over six years and they are continuing in their failure to deliver the promised reform of the health services."

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