[Sinn Fein]

17 January 2001

Government strategy fails to address `flawed and inequitable' health care system

Sinn Fein representative for Dublin South Central, Aengus Ó Snodaigh speaking at the launch of Sinn Fein's Health care strategy has strongly criticised the Government's ``Quality and Fairness: A Health System for You'' strategy document as ``inadequate'' and ``too late in this the dying months of this government''.

Mr. Ó Snodaigh said:

``It has taken this government over four and a half years to produce a document which outlines what has been obvious to us all for some considerable time. Our health system is in crisis. It is in crisis because successive governments made up of all the main parties have failed to invest in the health of our people.

``There are some positive elements in the government's plans, such as the introduction of the 24 hour service and the creation of multi-disciplinary primary care ``one stop shops''. The formulation and implementation of a health care strategy with a wide consultation process in planning is also to be welcomed.

``However the bottom line is that there is little confidence that this ambitious plan will actually be implemented in the long term.

Waiting lists

``The main problems in the government's strategy lie in the fact that it fails to guarantee long term funding. This in turn means that the reduction in waiting lists becomes aspirational rather than a concrete target that will be met. The failure to introduce a single waiting list also means that we will continue to have a `flawed and inequitable' health care system as was stated by consultants from Harvard University last year.

Ending the two tier system

``The Fianna Fáil / Progressive Democrat policy does not address the two tier nature of the Irish health system. The public health service is still subsidising private beds in public hospitals. A report by Deloitte and Touche has found that though the private sector have 20% of the beds in public hospitals they only contribute 11% of the costs of running these hospitals.

Staffing the Health Service

``A shortage of medical specialists is severely hampering the provision of public health care. From 1980 to 1999 the number of medical, dental and nursing staff have fallen from 33,700 to 32,500. We need to know how many new health care workers are being hired. We need to know where they will be working. We need to know how long newly hired staff will remain in the public sector.

Funding and Investing in Health care

``The government's strategy of using private and public partnerships for building and investing in enhanced and improved health services raises many questions. Who will own, control and profit from these resources? There is a genuine fear amongst many people that these plans will represent an extension of the private sector into the public health system, where once again income not medical need will be the determinant of the speed and quality of treatment.


``A survey conducted by Trinity College academics in 2000 found that households in the wealthier parts of Dublin were three times more likely to find a GP in their neighbourhood than those living in socially and economically deprived areas.

``The government's health strategy's proposal for new primary care centres will alleviate some of these inequities but there is a pressing need to roll out these new services in the areas of greatest social need as soon as possible.

``A commitment for a real regional health care strategy that provides targets and guarantees is a necessity. People should not be forced to travel round trips of hundreds of miles and then face long delays waiting for a ten minute consultation.

Accident and Emergency

``Accident and Emergency services are a disgrace. Many people can testify to spending hours waiting even to be seen by a triage nurse before spending hours more waiting for consultation and finally medical treatment.

``The service needs urgent attention. The health strategy overlooks the potential for creating dedicated emergency room facilities.

Pharmaceutical costs

``There is little attention given in the health strategy document to the pharmacy costs borne by both the public hospital service and the GMS scheme. Pharmaceutical companies are among the most profitable businesses internationally.

``The huge potential of health costs savings from either securing bulk discounts or instigating a policy of generic drug prescribing as against using the more expensive brand name drugs.

``Fianna Fáil and the PDs have had almost five years and ample funds available to deliver on health. The National Health Strategy was their last chance to commit to the necessary reforms. But their plan will not end two-tier health care in this country. Fianna Fáil and the PDs cannot dodge this. They have failed us. I would assure Bertie Ahern and Health Minister Martin that voters will make their dissatisfaction about this government's record on health care known in the next general election.'' ENDS

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