[Sinn Fein]

16th August 2002

Health Minister ``playing hide and seek'' to shirk his responsibility for cuts

Sinn Fein Dáil leader and Health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has described as ``incredible'' the position adopted by the Minister for Health Mícheál Martin in relation to the proposed cutting of 200 jobs by the Western Health Board. Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

``Minister Martin is playing hide and seek with the public in his efforts to shirk his and his Government's responsibility for cutbacks in the health services.

``Whether the jobs cut sought is 85 as claimed by the Minister or 200 as claimed by the Western Health Board the fact is that Minister Martin and his Government colleagues promised the electorate before the General Election that there would be no health cuts. Instead we are seeing employees being let go, the cost to patients of medicines increasing, attendance charges at A and E being raised, and VHI rates going up by 18%. The Fianna Fáil promise to end hospital waiting lists in two years was binned as soon as the election was over.

``The Minister cannot hide behind the Health Boards. His Health Strategy is being shredded page by page. Instead of the widespread improvements we were promised, we are seeing the crisis in the health services growing more acute. Health was the principal issue in the General Election and, as with the Nice Treaty referendum result, the government has defied the expressed will of the electorate.''

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