[Sinn Fein]

14th November 2001

Two tier system must end

Sinn Fein Spokesperson on Health, Aengus Ó Snodaigh said that inequality of access to the health service is totally undermining public confidence in the public health system. He said that eliminating the current two tier system in health must be the priority for all. Mr. Ó Snodaigh said:

``Our health service is in crisis, 28,000 people are on hospital lists waiting for treatment and many thousands more are waiting for an appointment with a specialist just to get on the list. How long you are left waiting for treatment is solely based on your ability to pay.

``This is only one aspect of the crisis. In the public system services are being run down, maternity wards and operating theatres are being withdrawn, through lack of adequate funding and personnel changes. Patients attending accident and emergency wards have to queue for hours for treatment. There is a huge shortage of nurses. Hospital staff especially, nurses and junior doctors are forced to work extremely long hours in wholly inadequate conditions.  

``The reasons for the poor state of the health services are:

* Lack of long term planning and bad management and organisation of the services; * Inequality within the system; * Under funding and cutbacks.

``We welcome further government moves to reverse underfunding but comprehensive actions is needed on many fronts.

``We need reform of training, staff organisation, work practices and pay at all levels to end inequality. Furthermore the grip of a minority of consultants on the purse strings and organisational structure of the health service must be broken.

``Sinn Fein believes the government should be eliminating the two tier, public/private system in health and moving towards an Irish national health service with free health care for all, funded from central general tax revenue. This would be in the context of increased co-operation and integration of health systems on an all-Ireland basis.

In Budget 2002 we are calling for

* the extension of medical card eligibility to all those on or below the minimum wage and to all persons under 18 years.

* an increase in health spending in the Budget in order to eliminate waiting lists.

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