Dáil debates

Tuesday, 28 September 2021

Hospital Waiting Lists: Motion [Private Members]


8:15 pm

Photo of Gino KennyGino Kenny (Dublin Mid West, People Before Profit Alliance) | Oireachtas source

I want to start on a very positive note about the past 18 months, which have been testing to say the least. The doctors, nurses, auxiliary and care staff and everybody who works in hospitals had the most challenging 18 months of their professional lives. They saw their patients, loved ones and family members die of this particularly terrible disease. The public health system protected and saved us and at its greatest hour it saved many people in the most difficult of circumstances. Notwithstanding the public health emergency we have faced, before that Ireland had one of the highest waiting lists for inpatient and outpatient care in Europe.

As a consequence of the pandemic, the parameters have changed fundamentally. Those parameters are what people accept and do not accept anymore. The underfunding and mismanagement of our healthcare system has led to this crisis of waiting times for procedures, including surgical procedures, and that is completely unacceptable. We all agree on that. There is a reason that happens and it is not a simplification to say that it is down to the policy of successive Governments. If you look at the policy of a two-tier health system, which we have, it involves private and public healthcare. Once there is that kind of split in society you will have a dysfunctional health system.

Deputy Shortall mentioned Sláintecare and the recent resignations do not bode well. There are reasons those members have resigned from Sláintecare and that does not bode well for reforming our health system. Sláintecare was the vehicle for reform and I have issues with the Sláintecare policy but it was going in the right general direction to see a universal healthcare system. When we see waiting lists there are huge numbers and there are people behind those numbers but if you are from an area of socioeconomic disadvantage and waiting on a procedure or operation, the consequences of that will be severe.

Deputy Shortall mentioned the NHS, which is a cherished institution in Britain. It came from the ashes of the Second World War. I do not know who said it but somebody said that if you do not give people a health system they will give you a revolution. We have to learn the lessons of this pandemic. The parameters have completely changed. The Government has to address the issues around recruitment, capacity and the historical legacy of those who are waiting and those who have suffered from that split in society between private and public healthcare.

I see that the Minister's statement is positive enough. We are, hopefully, at the tail end of this pandemic and I hope the Government will focus on trying to address these issues. If it does not address the issue of waiting times, the political cost will be extremely painful and one no doctor can remedy.


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