IF progress was made on a rehabilitation unit and an endoscopy unit for Bantry General Hospital then there would be no need for many patients to attend various Cork city hospitals for such treatments, Fianna Fáil Deputy Margaret Murphy O’Mahony has told the Dáil.
Speaking during a debate on a health motion, she said the Programme for Government provides that continued investment of €50m per year would be made available to reduce waiting lists and overcrowding. But, she added, more than 660,000 people are still on hospital waiting lists.
This represents an increase of approximately 30,000 since last February, she told the Dáil.
Aside from the distress these long and protracted waiting lists have on patients and their families, and the impact it has on their medical conditions, there is also the knock-on effect waiting lists and overcrowding have on day-to-day treatments and procedures.
‘There is no doubt that making more facilities available at primary care level would help alleviate the pressures experienced in hospital waiting rooms and emergency room, ER, departments,’ she said.
Efforts to address waiting lists and overcrowding should be all-encompassing and segregating inefficiencies in the health system will prove to be counterproductive in the long run, the Deputy concluded.
Meanwhile, Deputy Michael Collins (Ind) called on the government to implement an immediate reform of how the Fair Deal nursing home scheme is applied to farming families and the self-employed across this State.
‘The so-called Fair Deal scheme is very unfair and is unworkable for the vast majority of the fishermen, shopkeepers, publicans and other self-employed people, as well as the majority of farmers,’ he said. ‘Farm families in my constituency and all over the country are being forced out of their livelihoods after generations of farming because of discrimination in how the fair deal scheme is applied. This simply cannot be allowed to continue,’ said the Goleen deputy.
Deputy Collins said he knew of a farmer from Skibbereen whose wife suffers from a severe brain disease and in time, she will require full-time nursing home care. ‘This man fears that he will have to sell his farm to meet the high costs of nursing home care. This is very unfair,’ he said.
It is also important, he added, to recognise the role played by the private and voluntary nursing home sector as the main provider of long-term care under the Fair Deal scheme.
‘This sector is also a major employer in local communities,’ he said. ‘There are at least seven such providers in my own constituency and they are being restrained by the current regulations under the Fair Deal scheme,’ he said, adding that Nursing Homes Ireland has also raised a number of other issues with regard to the Fair Deal scheme, such as the need for the government to immediately publish the National Treatment Purchase Fund pricing review and to recognise in Budget 2018 the significant and sustained cost pressures on the private and voluntary sector, including increased dependency and an aging demographic.
Deputy Collins said the current Programme for Government contains a commitment to ‘remove discrimination against small businesses and family farms’ under the Fair Deal scheme, but no changes have been implemented. ‘This is a sad sign of this government’s treatment of, and respect for, rural Ireland and the entire farming community,’ he added.