Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health

Quarterly Update on Health Issues: Discussion
Quarterly Update on Health Issues: Discussion

Photo of Simon HarrisSimon Harris (Wicklow, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I thank the Deputy. I have not knitted since primary school but I get the reality of what the Deputy is saying. It is a political charge but it is, as is always the case with the Deputy, one that is made very politely. I do not see that. I am very proud of the record I have so far in the Department of Health. Like many before me, I have made mistakes and I would rather have done some things in a different way. However, on my watch we have worked together to repeal the eighth amendment, we have introduced the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill 2018 and we are building a national children's hospital that others have shirked, or tried to build on sites on which they could not even get planning permission, wasting €40 million in the process. We are increasing the number of nurses, with 3,300 more nurses working in the health service in the past five years. We have challenges in health, but that has always been the case no matter who the Minister was, whether it was the Deputy's party leader, a former leader of her party, my own party leader or anybody else. All of us have one thing in common, which is that we all face challenges.

Deputy Murphy O'Mahony referenced CervicalCheck but I do not think the Chair would appreciate it if I opened up a big debate on that, though I look forward to the debate on the matter in the Dáil this evening. I take comfort in my work from the comments of people who have been impacted by the CervicalCheck audit, who know the work I have done and have articulated their view of the way I have, quite publicly, worked with them. They are the people whose views on my political record I care about rather than those of political opponents.

The recent period has been very challenging and many issues have come together at the same time. We will work our way through them. We will resolve the nurses' strike because all disputes get resolved. It does not fall just to me to do that as there is a central government pay policy issue, but disputes are resolved by engaging, and that needs to happen urgently. On GPs, the Irish Medical Organisation, IMO, circular to members referred to the significant progress we were making in moving beyond the financial emergency measures in the public interest, FEMPI, and reversing the cuts that were imposed by the Deputy's party and mine during the economically different years. I will work as hard as I can to work through the issues, though we will not solve them all.


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