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7 August 2008 Edition

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Privatisation of primary care centres breaks Government pledges

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

THE Fianna Fáil-led government is breaking one of the key health service commitments in the National Development Plan and the Programme for Government, Sinn Féin Health & Children spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has said.
The Sinn Féin Dáil leader was referring to pledges to implement a €2.1 billion capital investment to develop modern primary care facilities
In reply to a Dáil Question from Ó Caoláin, the Health Service Executive says that Primary Care Centres will now be “provided by the market, through rental of floor space, rather than from the Capital Programme [as proposed in the NDP]”. Deputy Ó Caoláin said:
“Clear commitments were given by Government to develop modern primary care facilities as the cornerstone of a transformed health service.
“We now find that instead of developing dedicated primary care centres which would be in public ownership, the HSE is proposing to rent premises or seek developers to build premises which will then be leased by the HSE.
“It would appear that this is being done to make short-term, so-called savings. But the plan is fiscally reckless as it will tie the HSE into long-term leases and see landlords receiving high rents from public money that should be spent on the provision of health services.
“The Government and HSE will avoid making the pledged initial capital investment, thus balancing books in the short-term, but will saddle us with much higher and escalating running costs for primary care in the future. No doubt property developers will see this as a potential earner during the current slump but it is no way to develop vital primary care infrastructure.”

This week the HSE has taken out half-page advertisements in national newspapers ‘seeking accommodation’ in locations throughout the 26 Counties where Primary Care Centres were supposed to have been developed directly by the HSE under the National Development Plan. This is also a major commitment in the Programme for Government.
The Sinn Féin deputy pointed out:
“This very significant change in the funding of primary care is yet another form of privatisation of our health services.
“Cuts and privatisation are being accelerated over this summer season when Health Minister Mary Harney and her colleagues cannot be held accountable in the Oireachtas which is in recess.
“Sinn Féin will continue to campaign with communities against cuts and privatisation and for the development of primary care that is accessible to all.”

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