Dáil debates

Wednesday, 15 May 2024

Delivering Universal Healthcare: Statements


3:00 pm

Photo of Thomas PringleThomas Pringle (Donegal, Independent) | Oireachtas source

The healthcare system in this country is on its knees and needs a complete overhaul if we are serious about delivering universal healthcare. Waiting lists are constantly breaking record highs and access to sufficient healthcare is becoming increasingly difficult.

Last month, Letterkenny hospital broke another record: the longest ever waiting list for beds. Some 594 patients were admitted to the hospital without a bed, the highest number ever recorded at the hospital for the month of April. The health service in County Donegal and throughout the country is under severe pressure and this is having a detrimental impact on patients and their families, as well as staff. The system is broken and, unfortunately, the Government does not have the energy or ambition to fix it. I do not see why it is such a radical idea to suggest that everyone in this country should have access to treatment when and as needed. We should be prioritising the urgency of care required and not people’s ability to pay.

Many inequalities exist in this country, but the two-tier health system is an absolute disgrace and one of the most shameful examples of inequality in our society. It is deeply unfair that the only people who have a choice are those who can afford private healthcare. Discussions of the creation of a fully functioning public healthcare system are all well and good but this Government has to start taking action on it. I have given many practical solutions over the years that have not been taken up, but I will continue to raise them, because, unlike this Government and its health Minister, I will not give up on the idea of a universal healthcare system that ensures our citizens are treated well and treated equally.

I have frequently mentioned the possibility of collaborating with Cuba to send doctors to Ireland to relieve current pressures on the health service. This is a solution that has been adopted by many countries and that Cuban officials have expressed an interest in, yet somehow it is not even being considered by the Irish Government and I am still waiting to hear a plausible reason for that. The Minister for Health just ignores it.

This shows that the Government has continuously ignored suggestions from the Opposition. It is as if it has no interest in rebuilding the health service or ensuring universal healthcare. The truth is the Government is actively stripping away universal healthcare, with many treatments and services only geared towards those who can afford to pay significantly for them.

When implemented correctly, universal healthcare benefits everyone in society. We all benefit from a healthy society and we also benefit economically when people’s healthcare issues are addressed straightaway and not left to deteriorate further. Every other European country has a universal, single-tier health service. There is no reason Ireland cannot have this too and there is no reason our citizens should continue to suffer under the current broken healthcare system, except it is Government inaction and Government policy to make sure that happens.


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