Wednesday, 1 February 2017
Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2016: Second Stage
Instead of announcing that the senior Minister or the Taoiseach will visit UHG, they should come unannounced and see what things are like on an ordinary day. UHG has lists of more than 30,000 outpatients awaiting appointments, of whom 4,700 or more have been waiting for more than 12 months.
I have another issue, which I am not sure can be addressed in this Bill, but is something the Minister of State might consider. I understand there is a working group on the fair deal programme, which is looking at an issue that particularly affects farmers. The Minister of State is from an agricultural background and is very aware of farming issues. Assets of the farm are being used in the calculation of the fair deal package. It was raised with me yesterday at the farmer's protest that a working group is supposed to be looking into this and coming up with a solution. Perhaps this miscellaneous provisions Bill will be an opportunity to address this anomaly and the Minister of State might revert to us and let us know whether that working group has come to a conclusion on how to address those issues. It would seem to be the right thing to do because there are reports that farmers' land is causing an issue where it is not really an asset when they are running a farm at a loss. It is an issue of which I am sure the Minister of State is aware. There was also a highly insulting claim about this issue in an internal e-mail that farming families were leaving relatives on hospital beds to avoid any financial penalties they may suffer under the fair deal scheme. I hope that reported action will happen and that this anomaly can be remedied. Let us not forget the average farm family income is €26,000.
I welcome the drug reimbursement aspect of the Bill. I draw attention to the fact that the HSE has failed to reach an agreement on the Orkambi drug for cystic fibrosis sufferers. An initial figure offered by the drugs company Vertex was €159,000 per patient. The HSE estimated this would cost the State €400 million over three years. This is obviously a big figure and we hope this can be resolved. The Minister of State should take on board some of my suggestions. It might be something the Minister of State can address in the Bill on Committee Stage. I hope the Minister of State takes the suggestions I am making in a positive light and will come back to us on Committee Stage with any suggestions she has.