25 November 2004 Edition

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Health Bill 'the wrong remedy for the wrong illness'

Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin has described the Health Bill as "the wrong remedy for the wrong illness". The Health spokesperson said it removes democratic accountability and concentrates energy on bureaucratic change rather than on delivery for patients and real reform. The process of changeover to the Health Services Executive has "descended into chaos", he said.

Speaking in the Dáil on the Second Stage of the Bill, Ó Caoláin said: "This will not provide one extra bed in our hospital wards. It will not reduce by one hour the waiting time of a single patient in any of our chaotic Accident and Emergency units. It will not lead to the employment of a single extra nurse or doctor or paramedic. It will not extend radiotherapy services to the regions. It will not restore a single service that has been lost to local hospitals. And, above all, it will not address the scandal whereby money can buy superior healthcare in this State and where public money subsidises the private health business while public patients suffer.

"What this Bill does, and what the process of bureaucratic change is doing, is diverting vital energy away from the real delivery of services. This Bill is the wrong remedy for the wrong illness. We have a Bill to establish an all-powerful quango, appointed by the Minister for Health and Children and subject to no direct democratic accountability.

"Before the Bill was even published, the changeover process had descended into chaos.

"This long-promised and long-delayed legislation was only published late last Friday and we are being asked to debate and pass at Second Stage a major Bill of 82 sections in the space of three days. It is to be rammed through the Oireachtas by Christmas in a desperate effort to hide the shambles that is the so-called health policy of this Government.

"This Bill is a mess and should be withdrawn and redrafted."

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