4 March 2004 Edition

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Delegates sick of health problems

BY JOANNE CORCORAN

One or two motions in the health debate may have proved contentious last weekend, but the overall tone from all the delegates was one of unconcealed anger at the problems in the health sector both North and South of the border.

Spokesperson for health in the 26 Counties, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD opened the debate, and lashed into shocking health record held by the Fianna Fáil and Progressive Democrats Government.

"Almost two years ago Fianna Fáil sought and received the mandate of the people on an election manifesto which promised to permanently end hospital waiting lists within two years, to extend medical card eligibility to over 200,000 extra people — with a clear priority being given to families with children — and to end waiting lists for appropriate care places for people with disabilities," Ó Caoláin began. "And they are only three of the 14 promises on health, all of which have been broken. Instead of real reform we have piecemeal plans for bureaucratic change which will remove democratic accountability from the strategic management of our health services."

He referred to the Hanly report as "a recipe for the closure of services and hospitals".

"We welcomed the long overdue reduction of working hours Junior Hospital Doctors in Hanly but we deplore the use of that issue as a Trojan horse to close services in local hospitals around this State," he said.

Ó Caoláin finished, "Real health reform is about the best primary care available to all regardless of ability to pay. In June of this year the people have the opportunity to give their judgement on the broken health promises of Fianna Fáil and the lamentable record of this Government."

Caoilfhionn Ní Dhonnabháin spoke on a motion mandating Sinn Féin to pursue the 26-County Government to legislate for the decision in 'X' case.

"It is 12 years since the X case and two years since the defeat of the anti-X-case referendum," Caoilfhionn said. "The people of the 26 Counties gave their mandate for legislation when they voted to reject the government proposal and the constitutional amendment."

Caoilfhionn pointed out that there had been no progress on implementing the decision of the X case.

"Countless woman have suffered as a result of this failure in the intervening years. Any raped or suicidal woman or child should have the right to have a termination. How can Sinn Féin as a party committed to an equitable and fair society call for anything less?"

She added, "I hope that the party can move to a more progressive abortion policy which takes cognisance of the realities faced by women throughout this island."

Catherine Preston spoke about the need for screening services, for the early detection of breast cancer and also spoke on a motion calling for women to have the same rights as men when it comes to sterilisation.

"At the moment a woman needs written permission from her partner before she can be sterilised," she said. "It's unbelievable in this day and age."

John O'Neill from Dublin called for an investment from the government in the area of suicide. "The experience of attending the funeral of somebody whose demise was not expected is harrowing. And there are people in this country who survive a suicide attempt and are allowed home from hospital without even talking to a psychiatrist. That has to change."

A motion calling for a ban on all tobacco products was the only one not passed in this section.


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