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Order of Business

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Senator Paul Gavan

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Order of Business
Snippet Contents:

I want to refer to the "RTÉ Investigates" programme, which, I am sure, all Senators watched last night. It just so happens that it was a neighbour of mine, Mary Comber from Scanlon Park in Castleconnell, who was featured. She is the poor lady who had to sell her jewellery in order to pay for a cataract operation that the State would not provide for her. I want to ask the question as to how we got here. Let us be very clear: we did not land in the situation whereby public patients are obliged to wait for years while private patients can skip queues and get the treatment they want by accident. This is the result of long-standing Government policy. It has been the policy of not just Fine Gael but also Fianna Fáil when in government. Both parties have always favoured private consultants and that is why we have a health system that is led by private consultants. The system should be delivered by these people but, instead, it is led by them.
I want to nail one particular argument that I have heard already this morning, namely, that it is just a small number of consultants who are taking advantage. It is much more than that. The HSE, for example, is completely remiss in not overseeing compliance. It stopped collating statistics on the percentage of work that is done by private consultants in 2014. Then we have the fundamental problem that the way hospitals are funded encourages them to get private consultants to do more work in order to make up the funding gaps that exist. Of course, for the consultants, it is money in their back pockets.
What this issue clearly demonstrates is the need to get the private sector out of our public hospital system. We should all ensure that the latter is our policy. We should also ensure that the shameful and long-standing situation whereby people have to wait and take second place because their wallets are not big enough no longer obtains. I would like to hear some contrition from Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil on this issue. This did not happen by accident. They have allowed a situation to arise whereby a woman had to sell her jewellery in order to fund an operation. It is time that Fine Gael in particular moved away from supporting the rich consultants and rediscovered a belief in public health care.