Thursday, 15 October 2020
Financial Resolutions 2020 - Financial Resolution No. 7: General (Resumed)
It is a regular occurrence that Opposition Members stand up and say the budget is a missed opportunity but the reality is we are operating in a scenario whereby everybody is coming up with plans, whether budget plans, plans for Brexit or roadmaps for opening, but then we come to the old quote that everyone has a plan until they get hit in the mouth. This is where we are at present. The one thing we need to ensure is that we have the capacity to deal with the problems we are about to face. We have all had many discussions on ICU capacity. I have a fear the budget just does not give what is absolutely necessary. I accept we are not starting in a good place. We are actually starting from behind. This is something that will have to be addressed soon.
We have also had multiple conversations about test, trace and isolate. Even today, we have an issue with air travel. It is necessary that we put in place the capacity at test, trace and isolate level and that we look into various means of rapid testing being part of the system alongside PCR testing to deal with some of the shortfalls. We have all heard many anecdotal stories about people not being contacted for six days, during which time they did not realise they had been in contact with somebody with Covid-19. The impact of this is that we are dealing with the large numbers of cases we have throughout the island. We need to put a structure together that can attack this problem. It is as simple as that.
I also call on the Government moves not only to deal with the traffic light system for air travel but also, alongside the airport and even the airlines, though some of them have their own sins at this point in time, to come up with systems that do not impact on our community testing regime. We need this connectivity as an island nation. It is as simple as that.
With regard to housing and the budget, the truth will be in the telling, which will simply be when there is a reduction in council housing waiting lists and people being able to get an adequate supply of affordable mortgages or affordable cost rentals. We have to look at all of this. It is as simple as that. We have stated we believe the proposals are insufficient but it is all about building houses. We are talking about council-led house building..
I have talked about the necessity for capacity across the board in the health sector. There are difficulties in nursing homes. I will use this opportunity to ask once again that the Minister and the Government consider the point of view of the families who during the pandemic lost 22 people in Dealgan House in Dundalk. A recent freedom of information request revealed damning stories. A document stated the situation was critical with 71 residents completely dehydrated and that there was a risk of renal failure after one or two days of dehydration.
It went on to state that on 17 April, Dealgan House could not deal with the basic care of patients. Something dreadful happened here and we need to ensure it will not happen again. We need answers for the families.