29 March 2007 Edition
Health services - Number 1 priority
The announcement co-incided with a week of action on healthcare by Sinn Féin activists in Dublin.
Speaking at a press conference in the capital, Ó Caoláin said: “The reality of the crisis in the health services is all too familiar and is most clearly seen in A&E units and local hospitals. In February 2006 the highest daily figure for people on trolleys and chairs in A&E units was 414. In February 2007 it was 412.
“The government has the resources to ensure that everyone has equal access to health services on the basis of need alone. The health system consumes €16 billion of the annual tax take of some €40 billion. The problem is that it is being put in the wrong places and into the wrong hands.
“The Government has failed to address this crisis in A&E. They have failed to deliver the additional 3,000 acute hospital beds and they have failed to end hospital waiting lists or to tackle MRSA. They have failed to deliver a new contract with hospital consultants.
“Up and down the 26 Counties people are fighting to retain services in local hospitals. They are being told these services are not viable. But if you are a private property speculator who wants to avoid tax by developing a private hospital you will get a massive tax break from this government no matter where you locate your private for profit facility.
“This government is reinforcing the grossly unequal, unfair and inefficient two-tier public private system in this State. These resources should be used to build a localized health service, universally accessible by all on the basis of medical need.
“It is easy to criticise what is wrong with our health services, but we want to put it right. Sinn Féin wants to see a new universal public health system that provides care to all free at the point of delivery, on the basis of need alone, and funded from general fair and progressive taxation. We are committed to using our expected increased political strength after the General Election to help bring this about.
Sinn Féin’s immediate priorities in government
- Invest all health funding in the public system, immediately end tax breaks for private hospitals and the land gift scheme, phase out public subsidisation of and ultimately replace the private system within an agreed timetable.
- Medical cards for all under 18
- A timetabled and fully resourced strategy to deliver the additional 3,000 hospital beds required.
- Halting the over-centralisation of hospital facilities and reversal of cutbacks in services at local hospitals.
- A plan for enhanced provision of essential public nursing home beds, community care facilities and home care.
- Removing the cap on numbers employed in the health service, with an emphasis on recruitment of staff providing health services direct to service-users.
- Ensuring working conditions, promotion prospects and remuneration sufficient to maintain trained staff in the health services, halting the exodus from the public system and from the country.
- A new contract for hospital consultants to guarantee equity for public patients.
- All new hospital consultant posts to be public-only.
The solutions outlined above are only transitional to remedy the immediate crisis in the two systems. What we really need is an end to the partitioned and two-tier systems and a fundamentally structurally reformed all-Ireland healthcare system that guarantees equal access to everyone on the island on the basis of need alone.