Thursday, 20 December 2018
Order of Business
I thank the 23 Senators who contributed to the final Order of Business of 2018.
Senator Ardagh spoke about the National Treatment Purchase Fund, primary care and step-down facilities. It is important to recognise that issues relating to the treatment of patients are of absolute importance. The Senator made some valid points, particularly with regard to waiting lists, which need to be validated in case people are applying to multiple facilities. It is important that there is timely and expeditious contact and engagement with GPs. It is important that we get our lists right. The National Treatment Purchase Fund has been a huge addition. As part of the Sláintecare reforms, the Government is committed to increasing capacity. Putting in place a health system that is fit for purpose and that has the patient at its centre is a priority for the Government. The winter plan announced by the HSE is about increasing capacity and identifying how we can have step-down facilities and access to care. We want elderly people to be looked after in their communities and their homes. I make the point that a hospital is not the place for an elderly patient. The place for an him or her is at home or in a step-down facility.
Senators Ardagh, Ruane and Black mentioned the homelessness figures. Senator Ruane read a powerful piece by young students from Loreto secondary school in Wexford. While it must be recognised that we face a challenge in the area of housing - we are not where we want to be - it is important on the final day of this session to recognise that in budget 2019, the Government announced its intention to invest €2 billion to be spent on housing programmes. It is not about spending money for its own sake; it is about spending money on behalf of the citizens of the Republic and ensuring that 26,000 families and individuals will be housed. Some of the remarks that have been made here and elsewhere need to be challenged. The State is investing money and supporting families. This is a priority for the Government. Those of us who work in the constituencies in which we live recognise the pain, trauma, suffering and unease of many families and young children, especially at this time of year. When one listens to some commentary, one does not hear that the Government has spent an additional €30 million on services for the homeless this year - bringing the total to €146 million - that it has provided an extra €60 million in capital funding for additional emergency accommodation or that last year, or that 4,700 people exited homelessness and moved into homes and 2,000 families exited hotels.
I understand the frustration and the heartache, but work is being done. I am not being political this morning because this matter is far too serious. There is work being done. We should give some credit to the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, and the officials in the Department and the city and county councils. The director of services in my city of Cork, Mr. Brian Geaney, is very passionate about and is committed to delivering for people who require housing. It is clear from the statistics that planning permissions have increased. This has not been mentioned. There have been increases in commencement notices and employment levels in the construction sector. Progress is being made with social housing.