[Sinn Fein]

22nd January 2003

``Health Minister ignores reasons for rejection of Service Plan for North East region'' - Ó Caoláin

The Minister for Health and Children Micheál Martin has ``ignored the valid reasons for the rejection of the proposed Service Plan by the members of the North Eastern Health Board'', says Sinn Fein Health spokesperson and NEHB member Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin TD. Deputy Ó Caoláin again challenged the Minister to use his powers to restore and improve services in the region. He said:

``The decision by the Minister for Health and Children Mícheál Martin to direct the CEO of the North Eastern Health Board to prepare and present a Service Plan that has already been rejected by the members of the Board, shows once again that this Minister has the power to direct service provision in the North East.

``It also shows that he is only prepared to exercise his powers in certain circumstances. His decision to ignore the cross-party and, uniquely in recent years, the united political/professional appeal by Health Board members for additional funding to ensure, at the very least, the preservation of existing services, exposes his true position regarding services in the North East and particularly services at Monaghan General Hospital.''

Deputy Ó Caoláin followed up his opposition to the Service Plan at Monday's Health Board meeting in a written appeal to Minister Martin. However, the Minister's instant decision to direct the CEO, suggests, in Deputy Ó Caoláin's view, that ``the Minister has given no consideration whatsoever to the views expressed by the majority of the Health Board's members at their annual Service Plan meeting. Nor has he given any time for members and others to lobby him on the actions he should now take''.

Deputy Ó Caoláin has stated that he is ``extremely disappointed that the Minister has clearly refused to take into account, let alone accept the valid criticisms and concerns of Board members who did not lightly take the decision to reject the 2003 Service Plan as presented by the CEO. The Minister has the responsibility, as I pointed out in my letter to him of today, Tuesday, to both properly fund the North Eastern Health Board and to direct its Executive to provide specific services at each of its hospital sites. Expressions of sympathy and platitudes to the Livingstone family and others grievously hurt by the closure of essential services at Monaghan General Hospital and at Dundalk, will not suffice. These families and all who have been grievously wronged by these decisions expect at the very least that Minister Martin will take the necessary steps to restore these services and fund their development for the future.''

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