Tuesday, 15 December 2015
Gabh mo leithscéal, tá rud eicint mícheart le mo ghuth. I am glad the INMO has reached an agreement with HSE management to call off the strike. As was pointed out by the Minister for Health on a number of occasions, strike action would not deal with a single person on a trolley anywhere. It was not the Government that called the strike in the first place and I am glad the negotiations have resulted in the strike not taking place. I point out to Deputy Ó Fearghaíl that the number of people on trolleys this morning at 8 a.m. was 290, which is down 33% on this day in 2014. It is still too many but very much down. The Government recognises that working in emergency departments can be a very trying and difficult job. Recruiting and retaining staff is always a challenge. I hope the nurses and unions will vote in favour of the package agreed at the Workplace Relations Commission and that the planned action for Tuesday, 12 and Wednesday, 13 January will not arise. It is very unfortunate that this planned action resulted in the deferral of elective procedures in the hospitals concerned and that people waiting to undergo procedures today will have to go through the process again.
I do not accept that money is not being put into the health service plan. Over €13 billion has been put into it this year, which is an increase of over €800 million. I point out to Deputy Ó Fearghaíl that the service plan will be published tomorrow and the Minister has made it clear there is no diminution in any service and that there are targeted increases in services in a number of areas. That is for the good of the patient and for the benefit of the health service in general.
The question of work practices is always an issue in hospitals and the discussions surrounding that are of concern for nurses who work at the front line, doctors and management. The answer to the Deputy's question is that there is more money in there than before. There is no requirement for any diminution in service, instead services will be maintained and there will be targeted increases in a number of areas. The longer term vision is to end the two-tier system and introduce a single tier system, accessible to everybody and based on medical requirements rather than income.