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Confidence in the Minister for Health: Motion [Private Members] (Continued)

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 774 No. 1

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  9 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan: Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan] We take so much for granted, such as getting out of bed in the morning, dressing ourselves, showering and going to the toilet. Every one of those actions must be thought through for a person with a disability, and the work of a personal assistant allows such people the dignity to carry on their lives as well as possible.

Three days later, people with mental health issues were outside the House protesting while the Minister of State, Deputy Kathleen Lynch, has been very vocal about the €35 million in funding and extra posts. The people involved are vulnerable and have enough stress in their lives without this additional worry. Leaving the moral and ethical argument out of this, on a purely economic scale, the Centre for Independent Living has indicated that to keep one person in hospital for a year amounts to €328,000, whereas providing a personal assistant would cost €119,000. The same calculations can be applied to older people and those relying on home care services and home help in trying to avoid bigger demands on nursing homes and hospitals. Cuts to home care packages will have a desperate effect; older people may be admitted to hospital for treatment but they may well end up staying there for longer if home care packages are cut.

I was outside the House today when people involved in home help were protesting. A number of these people were from East Wall and North Wall, so I know them personally. These people work far longer hours than what they are paid for, and we are in danger of losing that extra help. Cutting disability allowances, home help and personal assistant hours means that more people will become institutionalised or restricted in their homes. It will become more expensive to care for them.

The national substance misuse report had been awaited for a number of years, and it was a major collaborative effort between various Departments, agencies, community and voluntary sectors. It was published before the recess but it was disappointing that the Minister was not present at the launch, as that would have indicated that he took the matter seriously. I mean no disrespect to the Minister of State who was present. What has happened since as there has been no action taken on the report?

Alcoholism and addictions have a huge impact on society. It is ironic that one of the report's recommendations, if implemented, would generate income, and the other recommendations are cost-neutral. Nevertheless, the promised action, which could have had a positive effect, has not come about, whereas the action taken with regard to disabilities has had a profound negative effect.

Deputy Finian McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle for the opportunity to speak to this motion of confidence in the Minister for Health. My criticism is based solely on politics and bad political decisions. It is important to say this is not about a person but rather a Minister and his Government, competence and accountability. Our people are hurting because of bad decisions and disastrous choices. We cannot have a Minister and a Government that when making a political choice look to hammer people with disabilities or senior citizens who need our care and support. It is not acceptable - it is criminal - to have people with disabilities camped outside Government Buildings wondering if their services will be removed. Fear, confusion and a lack of compassion have no place in any democratic or inclusive society. That is the bottom line with regard to the motion and the reason we have no confidence in the Minister.

The Minister and his Government were elected on promises of change and reform but in recent weeks we have seen fear, confusion and a lack of respect for people with disabilities, the elderly and the low-paid personal assistants and carers. We all knew there was a skeleton service before any cut was mentioned; this is not a case of waste in the health service but rather people needing help and support and getting a service as a right.

Over the summer we witnessed shameful events when the Minister did not speak to some of his Ministers of State and tried to pull off stunts. He was distracted and took his eye off the ball with regard to patient care and services for vulnerable people. Our citizens are, correctly, very frightened and angry. Yesterday I attended the Age Action Ireland conference in Croke Park, witnessing at first hand the anger, frustration and hurt felt by many of our senior citizens. They have had enough and the Government should listen to these people and address their concerns. Turning a blind eye is not the way forward.

There is also the case of thalidomide survivors, a group of whom in the summer indicated that the Government reneged on a commitment to them. There are 32 Irish people still alive from the 10,000 babies born worldwide with partial, malformed or no limbs. These people are in their 50s and 60s. In the programme for Government, Fine Gael and Labour promised to engage with them but to date, nothing constructive has happened.

This Minister and his Government should not be hitting the young, old, sick and disabled. They should instead hit the people with resources, take the money from them and run a proper health service.

  Debate adjourned.

  The Dáil adjourned at 9.05 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Wednesday, 19 September 2012.

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