Dáil debates

Wednesday, 27 September 2006

2:30 pm

Photo of Liam TwomeyLiam Twomey (Wexford, Fine Gael)

I wish the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney, well for the future. This is her first public appearance since giving up leadership of the Progressive Democrats. It will take a while to get used to addressing her simply as "Minister". Some people might still consider her the real Tánaiste.

On the question of funding long-term care, the problem is that we have been waiting so long for this report. What is the problem? It was part of the health strategy in 2001, and we have had the Mercer and O'Shea reports since 2003. An interdepartmental group has been working with the Cabinet for the past 12 months, yet the Government still has no policy on funding long-term care. The Minister's reply was generic, covering various aspects of funding care of the elderly rather than simply long-term care. There is a sense that the Department is all at sea when it comes to looking after the elderly, and that is why we ask what is going on today.

This morning, at a meeting of the Select Committee on Health and Children, the Minister of State, Deputy Seán Power, brought forward legislation on funding services for the elderly. The legislation was full of holes, and discussion on it was unbelievable. The Bill as presented is essentially incapable of being implemented.

The same is true with regard to protecting the elderly. We now learn that the Health Information and Quality Authority, HIQA, legislation also promised for this session will not arrive until next year. That means we do not have a social services inspectorate to protect elderly patients or any clear Government policy on how to look after elderly patients or fund their long-term care. There is a sense that the Department is totally lost and has no idea what is happening.

When the Minister of State stands up, he cannot speak of "complex and fundamental" problems. They must be very complex and fundamental if, after five years of thinking and talking about them, he cannot formulate even the most basic policy. When he produces one, I hope it is nothing like the legislation he presented to the Select Committee on Health and Children this morning.


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