[Sinn Fein]

18th June 2003

Ó Caoláin - Government plan is bureaucratic change not real reform

Sinn Fein Health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD said the Government plan was for ``bureaucratic change not fundamental reform of the health services with real delivery for patients''. He said the plan could not succeed in delivering improvements for patients unless the two-tier public-private system was ended.

Deputy Ó Caoláin has been a member of the North Eastern Health Board since 1999 and said the removal of all elected representatives would mean ``less accountability and more centralisation''. Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

``This is not a plan for real and fundamental reform because it fails to end the two-tier public-private system which creates virtual apartheid in our health services. While new bureaucratic structures are being set up, public patients will continue to suffer and die on waiting lists, hospital beds will remain closed and 200,000 people will be left without the medical card cover promised them by the Government before the last General Election. The Fianna Fáil promise to end hospital waiting lists within two years has now been consigned to history.

``This is a plan for bureaucratic change but it is being done at the expense of accountability. Elected representatives on health boards had a very minor role but they could scrutinise the delivery of health services on behalf of ordinary citizens. That role of accountability is now going. The planned centralisation is especially bad for areas outside the large urban centres.

``The proposed creation of a National Health Services Executive is an exercise in political expediency. The Government wants to shift responsibility >from the Minister for Health and Children and his Department to such an Executive which would not be directly answerable to the Dáil for its decisions. Combined with the exclusion of elected representatives from the new structures, this is a blow to democracy.

``A key reform needed is the renegotiation of consultants contracts ? this was supposed to be delivered by end of last year under the Government's so-called Health Strategy but the Government has failed to meet this commitment. We are told that this will be addressed in the yet unpublished Hanly Report but it is ominous that the Report was not launched with today's reports. There is no sign that this Government wants to challenge the power without accountability wielded by the consultants' representative bodies. On the contrary, it appears that their power will be enhanced in the new structures.

``The Government has had six years to come up with health service reform. If this is the best they can do after all that time, and after the ongoing delays in the implementation of the `National' Health Strategy, then the problems of our health services are set to continue and worsen in the time ahead.'' ENDS

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