[Sinn Fein]

20th January 2003

``Rejection of Service Plan gives Minister opportunity to act to restore services in North East'' - Ó Caoláin

Commenting on the rejection by the North Eastern Health Board of the Service Plan for 2003, Health Board member and Sinn Fein Health spokesperson Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin TD, said it gives the Minister for Health and Children Micheál Martin the opportunity to restore services at Monaghan and Dundalk hospitals. Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

``Under the 1996 Health Act the Minister is empowered to require the Chief Executive of the Health Board to prepare and submit a Service Plan if the Board fails to adopt a plan within a given period. Following the rejection of the Service Plan by the North Eastern Health Board the Minister should now provide the necessary increased funding and require the Chief Executive Officer to prepare and submit an amended plan which would restore maternity, accident and emergency and other lost services to Monaghan and Dundalk hospitals.''

Deputy Ó Caoláin, who seconded the motion for rejection of the Service Plan presented by the CEO to Monday's Health Board meeting, said:

``The Service Plan has been quite rightly rejected as it does not meet the growing needs of the people of the North-East region comprising Counties Cavan, Monaghan, Louth and Meath. The budget allocated by the Minister for Health and Children is totally inadequate. The region has the lowest per capita funding of the 11 health board areas in this State. The 10% increase sought by the Board from the Minister is the minimum required.

``This is not just a funding issue. I voted against the plan also because of the proposed deployment of resources. The Plan fails to provide for the restoration of essential services to Monaghan and Dundalk hospitals.

``The North East region has a growing population, including many people moving into these Counties because of overcrowding in Dublin. Health service needs are therefore becoming greater and more complex. The budget from the Minister and the rejected plan failed to recognise that reality. Not only would it not provide for increased need, it would prevent existing services being properly maintained.

``The ball is now in the Minister's court. He must secure additional funding and direct that those services axed in Monaghan and Dundalk, including maternity and accident and emergency units, are restored. Nothing less will be acceptable in this neglected region.''

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