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Financial Resolution No. 5: General (Resumed) (Continued)

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 893 No. 1

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath] What will he do given that he will be out of his house? He is in a very serious and perilous situation, as are many others throughout the country.

The Government Members have lost sight of the ordinary people and they are in a cocoon. I saw some Government Members last night who were ecstatic with the budget. They must think the people are wicked fools altogether if they are going to believe this. I recognise the effort the Government has made in some areas. I welcome it and give credit where credit is due. However, we need to remember the torture, the inhumanity.

This book contains the names of 90 Government Members who voted for the eviction Bill - the so-called Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act. It is eviction legislation to make sheriffs and receivers richer and fatter through their disgusting charges. The way they are treating the people is inappropriate by putting members of An Garda Síochána out there, if they have not enough to do, to defend the sheriffs and receivers. It is a low-grade industry that is paralysing people and has no interest in anybody. They are only interested in how much money they can make.

In some cases the wives or partners of the sheriffs are already the highest court officers in the land. It is despicable and disgusting, but it is all fine because they are all friends of Government Members. It is all friends of Government Members who are appointed to the Judiciary. They promised us new politics and a new era of transparency. This is the most non-transparent Government.

When I first became a Member of this House eight years ago we had a budget day and we had everything in the budget. It started to change shortly after I arrived, but now we get the budget the week before. Last Friday night in the middle of a terrible tragedy in Dublin, the Government was able to announce €1.5 billion, a massive Supplementary Estimate, for health. Why can the Minister not be honest with the people who are waiting for four years for an operation in pain and agony? Why can he not put the money into the hospitals? Why can he not support the front-line nurses and doctors? He comes out with his codswallop about having a free GP-visit card for under 12s, without any consultation with the AGP or IMO. He promised to renegotiate a 40-year old contract. He can run but he cannot hide. He cannot bully the people. Thankfully, young children are normally the healthiest people, except for the ones with special needs and serious illnesses.

The Government has savagely taken medical cards from older people and left them to die in agony. We also have the issue with the trolley count. Why will the Minister not deal with those people and give them medical cards when they need them without any duress and trauma? The same applies with special needs assistants in schools.

The Government parties want to look after the rich, the people who fill their coffers, who go to their breakfast mornings and dinners to support them. The Labour Party Members should be ashamed of themselves. They came to Clonmel to hold a conference two years ago and they could not even hold it. That is a sad state of affairs from what used to be an honourable party. Someone said the Labour Party Deputies would come back here after the general election in a minibus. I think they will come back in a hybrid car, which might only be a two-seater, possibly a four-seater or at most a seven-seater. The people are furious with Labour because it has abandoned them. It has abandoned them in the countryside, in the streets of Dublin and everywhere else.

The Government will not pass legislation. On three occasions I introduced a Bill, the Scrap and Precious Metal Dealers Bill, to protect people in their homes. It will not look at the bail laws. It has too many friends who are solicitors and there are too many Cabinet members who are solicitors and barristers. It will not look at free legal aid because it has too many people making too much money out of it. However, it will allow people to be persecuted in their homes in County Tipperary and everywhere else without giving them any protection. It can pass law after law on gay marriage and abortion - anything bar legislation to protect and support the citizens of the country who go out and work every day. They are the entrepreneurs in business who give employment and want to give employment. However, the Government wants to stick to its fancy work in legislation - nothing that would put bread and butter on the table. That would not matter to the Labour Party anymore. It is the modern liberal party. It wants to make its dent in government and it has made a fair dent in it, but, by God, it will not be able to make much of a dent after the general election.

As for the Taoiseach, it is enough for me to say Castlebar is closed down. It is a sad town. People are telling me that the gates are locked on the one business and industrial estate, which is a sad indictment. This morning a man told Deputy Fitzmaurice that people cannot walk on the bogs the Government is trying to close down. People have been cutting turf for hundreds of years. We want someone to vindicate our rights and not to be dictated to by Europe and worse still dictated to by officials here in Ireland. Let the people live. They will live if they are let live and not persecuted with taxes after taxes, while big business is being supported. On NAMA, I could think of another acronym to describe it better. I said on the night it was established it was like a wild animal being released in the woods; no one would know where it would end up.

The Government thinks it will deliver 90,000 houses; it will not deliver 90 and they will be for its friends. They will not sell the houses. I spoke about a man being evicted today. It will not sell the house to his brother-in-law because it wants to sell it to its friends. This is disgusting corruption that is going on in this country and the Government should be ashamed of itself.

Deputy Kevin Humphreys: Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys When is the Deputy rejoining Fianna Fáil?

Acting Chairman (Deputy Derek Keating): Information on Derek Keating Zoom on Derek Keating The Minister for Health, Deputy Leo Varadkar, proposes to share time with the Minister of State, Deputy Kathleen Lynch. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Minister for Health (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I welcome the opportunity to address the House on the budget and the 2016 health Estimates. This is my second year as Minister for Health to address the House on this matter and, as was the case last year, I am pleased to be here to talk about a budget that provides additional funding for public services such as health, education and child care.

The budget will assist in continuing the improvement of the economy. It will create an environment to sustain more jobs, more investment in public services, health, child care, education and more housing, in particular, social housing.

Last year we were able to achieve the first modest budget increase in health service funding in seven years. Additional funding was provided during the course of 2015 to address delayed discharges from acute hospitals, waiting lists and emergency department overcrowding. I am pleased to announce that the Government is asking the Oireachtas to allocate additional Exchequer funding for the health sector for 2016. The gross current budget for the health sector for 2016 is €13.175 billion. This is equivalent to an increase of €880 million compared with the 2015 allocation of €12.295 billion voted through last year. This represents a 7% increase on the budget for 2015 and a 12% increase on the voted budget for 2014. It is an indication of the Government's commitment to addressing the reductions experienced by the health sector arising from the economic downturn.

Our spending ceiling continues to rise and once again, all savings and efficiencies achieved will be available to reinvest in improving health services. Some €817 million will be available to address service pressures. Funding to cover the full-year cost of a number of initiatives commenced in 2015 - commitments under the Lansdowne Road agreement and the programme for Government. The remaining €63 million goes to meet the residual cost of once-off measures introduced in 2015. In addition, savings and efficiencies of €125 million have been identified in the areas of procurement, prescribing and drug costs, bringing the total available to support existing levels of service and new developments to €942 million.

The funding secured will ease the pressure on the health service to continue providing the optimum level of safe services for patients within the budgetary limits. However, it is essential that we continue to focus on cost containment and cost avoidance as there continue to be major cost pressures on the health service. We have an increased and aging population, an increase in chronic conditions, and new expensive medicines and technologies that we must fund.

I am pleased to confirm that there will be no change to hospital or prescription charges, the monthly DPS threshold, or income thresholds for eligibility for medical or GP-visit cards. Funding for the fair deal will be maintained at a level to keep waiting times at a maximum of four weeks. I believe this shows the Government’s continuing commitment to stabilising the direct cost of health services for citizens.

I am grateful to my colleagues, the Ministers, Deputies Michael Noonan and Brendan Howlin, for their support and understanding in dealing with the challenges faced by the health sector.

The level of health services to be provided within the available funding will be set out in the HSE’s 2016 national service plan which is being prepared by the executive. I want to take the opportunity to outline some of the issues which will be more extensively covered in the service plan. Funding is being provided to reduce delayed discharges from our hospitals and emergency department overcrowding and to provide for ongoing implications of winter capacity planning.

I have taken a personal interest in emergency department overcrowding and have secured €74 million in additional funding this year to alleviate the problem. This funding came on top of measures already taken in budget 2015, when the Government provided €25 million to support services that provide alternatives to, and relieve pressure on, acute hospitals. This has allowed the waiting time for the nursing home support scheme to be reduced from 15 weeks to four, which in turn has reduced delayed discharges in hospitals from 850 to under 600 - it is actually down to 560 today - freeing up 250 acute beds in hospitals. It has also allowed us to open another 150 district hospital beds, including at Mount Carmel community hospital, formerly a private hospital.

More community beds will be opened before the end of the year. It has also allowed us to increase investment in health services and keep patients out of hospital altogether, or allow them to get home earlier, thanks to community intervention teams, day hospitals and acute medical admission units. This funding rolls into the budget for 2016 in order to continue this initiative.

While we have seen an improvement in patient experience times in our emergency departments, and a fall in numbers of people waiting on a trolley for more than nine hours, morning peak overcrowding has not improved and is still worse than the same point last year. I understand the distress and hardship that all of this is causing to patients and their families and, of course, staff. Further additional funding of €18 million was provided in July for a winter initiative, which starts in a few weeks time. This includes the provision of approximately 30 additional beds in hospitals across the country in November and December.

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