Thursday, 28 November 2019
Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions
The crisis in the health service is breaking daily records, with previously unheard of cases of human misery being experienced across the country. We have seen older people being left on trolleys for days on end and families nervous about taking their loved ones to emergency departments because of the delays. We have seen elective surgeries being cancelled. On Tuesday, Deputy Micheál Martin expressed concern, in particular, about children's elective surgeries being cancelled, the incidence of which was confirmed this morning by a leading professional involved in one of the main hospitals. There are 117,000 children on inpatient and outpatient waiting lists. On Tuesday night, the fire service had to be called to University Hospital Limerick to inspect the conditions in its emergency department, a building recently built and opened under the Government's watch. Patients had to be removed on the instructions of fire service staff.
There has been huge coverage in this House and outside it of all the issues in the health service. We debated the issues only two weeks so. However, I always get the sense that there is no understanding on the other side of the House of their impact. There is no real interest in what is happening and the Government is just going through the motions of defending it. That was confirmed to me when I read the transcript of yesterday's meeting of the Joint Committee on Health, where one of the Tánaiste's colleagues spoke about her shock at the conditions in the health service. She could not understand why children with head injuries, broken arms and broken legs had to wait in the same room as children who were vomiting. She said conditions and waiting times were unacceptable and she hoped nobody would recognise her as a politician. All of her stress has been experienced by thousands of parents and thousands of children of elderly parents, yet it is only now that the penny seems to be dropping. Apparently as a consequence of this Government Deputy's testimony, there will be a special meeting of the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party to discuss the matter. The horse has bolted and the Government is panicked.
Does the Tánaiste accept that the winter plan trumpeted by the Government two weeks ago as the answer, even though there are no new staff and no new beds, is failing in the context of what is unfolding in emergency rooms and in children's emergency departments across the island? Does the Tánaiste share his colleague's assessment of the health service? Is he embarrassed to be a Minister and Tánaiste in this Government?