Tuesday, 28 September 2021
Hospital Waiting Lists: Motion [Private Members]
From 1918 to 1920, the Spanish flu epidemic swept the world killing tens of millions of people. The pandemic clearly revealed to the masses that the existing health systems based on private ownership and charities were not fit for purpose. The demand for public health services grew louder and unstoppable. In 1945, following six years of world war, the people of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland resolved there would be no return to the poverty of the 1930s. They fast-forwarded the creation of a welfare state and the jewel in its crown came in the form of the National Health Service. In this country, after more than one and a half years of a deadly pandemic, our health services stand at a crossroads. The health system has nearly 1 million people waiting for treatment, a list that contains untold numbers of stories of pain, frustration and hardship. These waiting lists are the product not merely of Covid but of a health service that is not fit for purpose.
We have a Government made up of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party, which is blocking and frustrating the progressive Sláintecare reforms, irrespective of what the Minister might say. I have no confidence in Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael or the Green Party to deliver, even on the limited Sláintecare reforms. They will only be fully implemented when these parties are removed from office and an alternative Government is elected, one that is brought under such pressure from below - this is the key point - that it is forced to take the necessary steps. I hope that pressure is so great that such a Government will challenge the vested interests of profit and privilege embedded in the Irish health system and move towards what is needed, which goes beyond Sláintecare. What is needed is a not-for-profit Irish national health service.
The resignation of the Sláintecare duo of Laura Magahy and Professor Tom Keane clearly indicates they felt hugely frustrated in implementing their mandate. I am certain, however, the frustration they felt was as nothing compared to that felt by the nearly 1 million people on our waiting lists. The Minister was quoted in the press today as saying he intends to bring a memo to Cabinet shortly regarding new elective hospitals for Cork, Galway and Dublin. The people on waiting lists in Cork, and no doubt in the other cities also, are tired of vague formulations and the Minister's talk of mañana. Like me, they want some straight answers to some straight questions. Will the Minister clarify if this memo will be brought next month, the month after that or next year? Will it include details of selected site locations, a commencement date for construction work and a date by which the hospitals will open?