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24 April 2008 Edition

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Harney boosts private profits as public health system crumbles

Health Minister Mary Harney is today (Thursday) opening a Private Health Conference in Dublin. This exclusive event is designed to promote the lucrative multi-national private healthcare business with participants paying over €500 each to register. Tickets for the gala dinner cost €250 plus VAT and exhibitors are paying €3000 for a stand at the conference.
Meanwhile cuts imposed by the Health Service Executive (HSE) on public health services around the 26 Counties are biting hard. Twelve respite beds at Cherry Orchard Hospital in Dublin are closing and 12 more at St. Oliver’s Hospital in Dundalk. Funding for speech and language therapy and addiction services is being cut in Ballyfermot. A surgical ward at Kerry General Hospital, which was renovated at a cost of over €600,000 was shut down in January because of staff shortages. It was due to re-open in March but only a small section of the ward re-opened last week. The long-promised psychiatric unit at Beaumont Hospital in Dublin has been deferred again because the site has been given over to one of Harney’s precious ‘co-located’ private for-profit hospitals.
The HSE has slashed the ‘Hospital in the Home’ service based at Tallaght Hospital. This freed up hospital beds by treating people in their homes with visiting nurses and doctors. Eileen Douglas of Clondalkin told An Phoblacht that she had availed of the service on three occasions and it was excellent. She has serious lung and heart conditions, is a medical card patient and was told by doctors that she would likely not be alive but for the treatment she received in Tallaght and through the ‘Hospital in the Home’ service. She pointed out that, as well as taking up more beds, the axing of the service will increase the risk of patients acquiring hospital-based infections, something she fears if she has to return to hospital.
Speaking in the Dáil on Wednesday during statements on the stepping down of Bertie Ahern, Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said:
“As the Taoiseach leaves office patients in the public health service are again suffering from HSE cutbacks that hurt the old, the sick and the disabled. The public health system is being allowed to crumble while the Government promotes the private for-profit health business. Tomorrow morning Minister Harney will officially open a Private Health Conference with participants paying over €500 per head to attend. On 24 April 1916 we had the Proclamation. On 24 April 2008 we have privatisation.”

An Phoblacht
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