Houses of the Oireachtas

All parliamentary debates are now being published on our new website. The publication of debates on this website will cease in December 2018.

Go to oireachtas.ie

Leaders' Questions (Continued)

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 970 No. 7

First Page Previous Page Page of 85 Next Page Last Page

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald I am not asking the Taoiseach to do anything other than to engage in wise and prudent use of public moneys. If, however, it is his view that there is not a crisis in the recruitment and retention of medical staff, particularly nurses, I must inform him that there are lots of people working on the front line who would strongly disagree with him. I am putting the simple proposition to the Taoiseach that €300 million spent in a calendar year on the recruitment of agency staff does not represent good value for money. I am suggesting that there are things that need to be done to address that situation. This is a long-running problem. I have given the Taoiseach figures for 2017, but we could go back further and identify the same problem.

We have to decide that we are going to give our nurses, for example, a fair deal, that there will be full pay equalisation and that, having trained the best and brightest, we are not content any longer to allow them to emigrate, thereby losing all of their skill and expertise. Can the Taoiseach indicate in concrete terms how he proposes to address this situation? It is not just a case of how much money is spent. We could debate the overall resourcing of the health service on another occasion. I expect that we are on different sides of that argument. It is not just a case of how much money is spent, it is a question of how it is spent. Agency staffing is clearly not an optimum, desirable or prudent solution.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar There are just over 10,000 doctors working in our public health service. That is the highest number ever. I accept that demand is higher than ever as well, but it is not the case that the number of doctors working in our public health service is falling. In fact, it is increasing and is at its highest point ever. Nursing numbers did go down considerably on foot of the cutbacks during the recession. We have approximately 1,000 more nurses than we had this time last year, so, again, we are going in the right direction. That is not to dismiss for a second the fact that posts are unfilled or that we have serious problems with recruitment and retention in different parts of the health service. However, it would be factually untrue to say that the number of doctors or nurses working in our health service is falling. The number of doctors working in our public health service is at an all-time high. The number of nurses working in our public health service is increasing. We must be able put it in that factual context. People are entitled to their own opinions; they are not entitled to their own facts.

I will describe what we are doing other than pay restoration, which is now very much under way, with two pay increases this year and two more next year - that is before increments. We have specifically given the Public Service Pay Commission the job of examining the issues of recruitment and retention, looking at where in the health service there genuinely is a recruitment and retention problem, where there is not, where it is the result of maldeployment and where particular incentives may need to be put in place for certain grades and professions. It is not an issue across the board. It applies in some places, some professions and some posts. If we really care about ensuring that taxpayers' money is well spent and goes toward patient care, we need to make sure that we have targeted recruitment and retention incentives, not blanket ones across the board whereby the money would not go to the patient.

Deputy Michael Collins: Information on Michael Collins Zoom on Michael Collins Is the Taoiseach aware that we are on the verge of one of the biggest experimental marine destruction journeys in Ireland, the UK and Europe? I am referring to the proposed mechanical harvesting of kelp in Bantry Bay, which is supposed to commence on Wednesday next. Last week, the company carrying out this mechanical harvesting issued a letter to the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government saying that it is to commence mechanical harvesting of kelp - better known to all as seaweed - on Wednesday next, 4 July. While that date may be Independence Day in the USA, it is seen as doomsday for many who live near Bantry Bay, where 1,860 acres of seaweed will be mechanically harvested.

In the past 12 months, action groups have mobilised peacefully in west Cork to try to find a solution to this major issue. Hundreds have attended public meetings in Bantry. Some 13,000 signatures have been collected for petitions against this happening in Bantry Bay. As other public representatives have aided them in every way humanly possible, we have tried in that 12 months to get a meeting between the action group and the Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy English, but to no avail. This begs the question as to what is going on here. In his reply to questions I raised some months back, the then Minister said that he did not know what impact this would have when completed but that the Government will know whether to grant further licences when the harvesting in Bantry Bay has taken place.


Last Updated: 09/03/2020 15:28:51 First Page Previous Page Page of 85 Next Page Last Page