[Sinn Fein]

17th January 2002

Free Health Care for All

Speaking at the launch today (17 January) in Dublin of Sinn Fein's Health Strategy, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD called for ``real debate about real issues'' in the run up to the general election. The Cavan/Monaghan TD said:

Recent days and weeks have seen growing speculation about the outcome of the general election and the possible coalition partners who may emerge. We have seen detailed coverage of the mating game between the three larger parties. We have not been hearing what the vast majority of people want to hear and that is how all parties will address the major problems in our society. Foremost among these is the state of our Health System.

We in Sinn Fein want a real debate about real issues. The Irish people demand that their elected representatives act together to address their needs. The forthcoming election campaign, as far as we are concerned, will be about issues, and we will be putting our policies before the people and seeking their endorsement.

Sinn Fein's central demand on Health is for a Healthcare system which is free at the point of delivery for all. This would include free GP care, free hospital care, free medication. This should be funded from general taxation. No more important use can be made of government revenue.

In this Discussion Paper we expand upon that basic demand which is the key and essential change needed to transform the health service. The inequalities which blight our health system persist because successive governments have maintained the two-tier public/private structure of the system.

It is a scandal that in our health system we have first-class and second-class patients. Private healthcare is subsidised by the State while those on public waiting lists get second-class treatment. In our hospitals consultants are being paid from the public purse for treating public patients while at the same time they profit from the thriving private health business. Their skills can be bought, and public waiting lists by-passed, at the right price.

No system built on that basis can be either fair or efficient. Successive governments have failed to grasp that nettle. The current's Government's Health Strategy, despite the positive elements in it, continues that failure. If transforming the health system and creating equality means taking on the vested interests of the most powerful minority in the health services - the consultants who benefit from both private and public systems - then it must be done.

Sinn Fein's ten-point plan of action for Health is:

Sinn Fein will campaign during the forthcoming general election and beyond for the implementation of these health policies. We are committed to equality and efficiency in our health service because we are committed to an Ireland of equals.''

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