Statement re Ambulance Service 17.04.2014

The unions and staff associations have been looking for a resource study of the Ambulance Service for a number of years and I believe the HSE has finally agreed to such a study.

In these circumstances, there should be no more service cuts and certainly no more service cuts in south Tipperary. I commend the Tipperary Ambulance Action Group which is opposed to the cuts across south Tipperary and came together to campaign on this issue. It has completed a comprehensive study of the ambulance service in south Tipperary. The study confirms that on the basis of the current ambulance service configuration in the county which is based on three stations – Clonmel, Cashel and Tipperary town – the current staffing levels and equipment in those stations, in excess of 55% of the population of south Tipperary cannot be given an adequate service that meets the minimum response times. What does the HSE want to do? On top of a crisis, it wants to introduce further cuts. This is completely ridiculous and I am calling on the Minister to stop any cuts in the ambulance service, not just in south Tipperary but throughout the country, and to ensure that the service is properly funded and staffed.

 

Full Dail Record of Speech

 

Deputy Seamus Healy:   I rise to support the motion on the ambulance service requesting adequate funding for the service. Anybody who has an eye to see or an ear to hear knows that the ambulance service is under-funded, under-resourced, understaffed and under-equipped and that it compares unfavourably with our neighbours in Northern Ireland and particularly Scotland. We have about 1,600 staff while Scotland, which has a similar population, has 4,500 staff and double the funding. It is widely accepted that the ambulance service in this country is in crisis. The Minister has looked for a review from HIQA. The unions and staff associations have been looking for a resource study for a number of years and I believe the HSE has finally agreed to such a study.

In these circumstances, there should be no more service cuts and certainly no more service cuts in south Tipperary. I commend the Tipperary Ambulance Action Group which is opposed to the cuts across south Tipperary and came together to campaign on this issue. It has completed a comprehensive study of the ambulance service in south Tipperary. The study confirms that on the basis of the current ambulance service configuration in the county which is based on three stations – Clonmel, Cashel and Tipperary town – the current staffing levels and equipment in those stations, in excess of 55% of the population of south Tipperary cannot be given an adequate service that meets the minimum response times. What does the HSE want to do? On top of a crisis, it wants to introduce further cuts. This is completely ridiculous and I am calling on the Minister to stop any cuts in the ambulance service, not just in south Tipperary but throughout the country, and to ensure that the service is properly funded and staffed.

http://wp.me/p1Uvd5-Bi

Deputy Healy Speaking on the Motion re Ambulance Service 16.04.2014

Motion re Ambulance Service:

“That Dáil Éireann:

acknowledging the:

selfless dedication to their work of the paramedics in our ambulance service;

high quality of care that they provide; and

uniquely pressurised nature of the work they undertake;

recognises that:

there is nationwide concern and disquiet about the provision of ambulance services;

this situation can be exacerbated by delays in accident and emergency wards;

in 2013 only one in every three people with life-threatening conditions were responded to within the target time;

delays in ambulance response times far exceed both national and international accepted norms;

large areas of the population right across the country are regularly left without any local ambulance cover;

the Health Service Executive lowered the ambulance response time targets to 80 per cent in 2012 and 70 per cent in 2013; and

the centralisation of control and dispatch has led to concerns about a lack of local knowledge and the impact that can have;

notes that:

the Republic of Ireland, with a population of 4.6 million, has an ambulance service that employs less than 1,600 staff and an annual budget of €137.4 million;

Northern Ireland, with a population of 1.7 million, has an ambulance service that employs just fewer than 1200 staff with an annual budget of £62 million (€78 million); and

Scotland, with a population of 5.3 million, has an ambulance service that employs over 4,500 staff with an annual budget of £203.5 million (€258 million);

believes that:

while paramedics do their utmost to provide a service to the highest international standards, this is impossible with current budgets;

it is essential that paramedics be properly resourced to carry out their work; and

such resources are not currently forthcoming from the Government; and
calls for the ambulance service to be appropriately resourced so as to ensure a safe and efficient service nationwide.”

 

Deputy Seamus Healy:   I rise to support the motion on the ambulance service requesting adequate funding for the service. Anybody who has an eye to see or an ear to hear knows that the ambulance service is under-funded, under-resourced, understaffed and under-equipped and that it compares unfavourably with our neighbours in Northern Ireland and particularly Scotland. We have about 1,600 staff while Scotland, which has a similar population, has 4,500 staff and double the funding. It is widely accepted that the ambulance service in this country is in crisis. The Minister has looked for a review from HIQA. The unions and staff associations have been looking for a resource study for a number of years and I believe the HSE has finally agreed to such a study.

In these circumstances, there should be no more service cuts and certainly no more service cuts in south Tipperary. I commend the Tipperary Ambulance Action Group which is opposed to the cuts across south Tipperary and came together to campaign on this issue. It has completed a comprehensive study of the ambulance service in south Tipperary. The study confirms that on the basis of the current ambulance service configuration in the county which is based on three stations – Clonmel, Cashel and Tipperary town – the current staffing levels and equipment in those stations, in excess of 55% of the population of south Tipperary cannot be given an adequate service that meets the minimum response times. What does the HSE want to do? On top of a crisis, it wants to introduce further cuts. This is completely ridiculous and I am calling on the Minister to stop any cuts in the ambulance service, not just in south Tipperary but throughout the country, and to ensure that the service is properly funded and staffed.

Deputy Healy raises the issue of A&E conditions at South Tipperary General Hospital with An Taoiseach

Deputy Seamus Healy: Approximately three weeks ago, on 25 March, I raised with the Taoiseach the absolutely unacceptable number of patients on trolleys and chairs in the accident and emergency department in South Tipperary General Hospital. I described the conditions on that day as reminiscent of those in the Third World. I make no apology for this. Three weeks later, nothing has been done, despite requests from hospital staff and management and the HSE south east management. Today, there is a full-blown crisis in the accident and emergency department. The emergency requires emergency action from the Taoiseach. There were 29 patients on trolleys in the hospital this morning. They are in the accident and emergency department, the corridors of the department, the corridors of the rest of the hospital and along the main public thoroughfare of the hospital. An individual sent me a photograph of a relative who is recovering from a subarachnoid haemorrhage but who is on a trolley in the main public thoroughfare of the hospital, up against a bank of vending machines. Patients have absolutely no privacy. The bathroom and toilet facilities for patients are either totally inadequate or non-existent. This is absolutely unacceptable and outrageous.

The number of patients on trolleys in the hospital increased from 750 in 2011, when the current Government came to power, to 3,100 in 2013. The hospital budget has been cut by €11 million, or nearly 25%, and more than 100 staff have been lost. The hospital is now working at 120% capacity every day of the year. Hospital staff simply cannot cope and, despite their working above and beyond the call of duty, they are struggling to provide a safe service.

An Ceann Comhairle: Has the Deputy a question?

Deputy Seamus Healy: The HSE, the Department of Health and the Minister for Health have failed the patients in the hospital. We require emergency action today. I ask the Taoiseach to take charge of this matter personally and approve additional medical, nursing and support staff for the emergency department in the hospital. I want him to approve additional beds and open additional step-down beds for the hospital.

The Taoiseach: Deputy Healy raised this a number of weeks ago. No less than anyone else, I feel for patients who must go to hospital and those who find themselves in circumstances that are not at a premium level or who are not in the best facilities. I do not have the details Deputy Healy read out, although he raised this three weeks ago. I undertake to ask the Minister for Health for a report on the facts the Deputy mentioned in respect of South Tipperary General Hospital, and I will advise the Deputy on the official response.

The Deputy is well aware of the action taken by the Minister at national level in respect of reducing trolley numbers in recent years. This action has been quite successful. Obviously, there seem to be circumstances in the Deputy’s local hospital that are not conducive to providing care of the best level, as the Deputy pointed out. I will undertake to seek a report from the Minister, through the HSE, on the facts the Deputy outlined in his question today.

Deputy Seamus Healy: There is a crisis in the hospital today. It is all very well producing reports but we need action today. There are 29 patients on trolleys in the hospital, which amounts to ten more than three weeks ago when I raised this issue originally. The HSE is well aware of the matter, as are the Department of Health and the Minister. The Taoiseach is aware of it because I raised it with him in the House three weeks ago. I ask the Taoiseach to take action on this crisis in his capacity as Taoiseach and leader of the Government and country. There is a way to do so, as I told him three weeks ago.

There is provision in the HSE national service plan, under “Critical Service Priorities”, to have €30 million just for situations like this. I asked the Taoiseach three weeks ago and I ask him again today to initiate moneys from that section of the national service plan to provide additional staff at the Department and to open additional beds in the hospital and also step-down beds. As I said, this is an emergency situation and it requires emergency action. All else has failed. It is now Deputy Kenny’s responsibility, as Taoiseach and as leader of this country, to make the necessary decisions and to approve what I have just requested.

The Taoiseach: Deputy Healy is well aware that when we were spending €16 billion on the health system, the numbers on trolleys and the situation in hospital wards throughout the country were in very poor shape. Money is not the answer here.

Deputy Seamus Healy: The Government has the money.

The Taoiseach: An agreement has been set out under Haddington Road for rostering and for changes in regard to all of these things. I have not had a report from—–

Deputy Seamus Healy: The numbers on trolleys have quadrupled since they came into government.

An Ceann Comhairle: Sorry, Deputy. You have had your say.

The Taoiseach: I have not had a report from the manager in South Tipperary General Hospital. There has to be a reason for the excess numbers who are on trolleys, as the Deputy pointed out.

Deputy Seamus Healy: €11 million in cuts is the reason.

The Taoiseach: I do not know if it is a particular issue with the health of some people in the area or what the reasons are for having 29 patients on trolleys. I have offered to find out for the Deputy but he should not expect me to say that we can employ X number of extra people tonight or tomorrow or that we can open beds.

Deputy Seamus Healy: The management in the south east have already asked for this.

The Taoiseach: The Deputy is not dealing with reality there. There has to be a reason for this. The management of the beds in every hospital is a matter for the hospital chief executive and the hospital manager. I do not have a report from them in respect of what the Deputy raises here. I have undertaken to find out for the Deputy from the Minister of Health, through the HSE, what the exact situation is and I will advise Deputy Healy of that.

Deputy Seamus Healy: That is not good enough.

Statement re Crisis at A&E at South Tipperary General Hospital

From Paddy Healy on Behalf of Seamus Healy TD 087-2802199

Seamus Healy says emergency action is needed to provide extra staff, beds and resources at South Tipp General. This should be provided from the 30 million Euro HSE emergency Fund.
Kenny says that money is not the Issue
Under pressure from Healy, Taoiseach says he will seek a report from Minister for Health on the Crisis at South Tipp General

Seamus Healy TD

Statement re Leaders Questions of 10 April 2014

Seamus Healy TD—Leaders Questions Thursday April 10

Link: http://wp.me/p1Uvd5-B0

Minister Brendan Howlin , Labour, holds the second most senior economic ministry.

At leaders questions, Seamus Healy TD took the Labour Party to task for bringing in regressive Budgets which hit the poor harder than the rich (See ESRI Report on recent budgets http://www.esri.ie/UserFiles/publications/QEC2013Win_SA_Callan.pdf)

The 2014 budget was more unfair to the poor than the FF/Green budgets. He sought the restoration of the respite grant for carers, cuts in home heating allowances and child benefit. He called for increased taxes on the 10,000 who earn on average 595,000 per year each (Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan in reply to a parliamentary question on Oct 3, 2012). Deputy Healy pointed out that the total gross financial assets of households (324 Billion) are now back above the peak 2006 level (Table 3 Institutional Sector Accounts Central Statistics Office 2013)

The bulk of these assets are held by the top 10% of the population (all those with mortgages and/or credit card debt have negative financial assets- houses, farms and business premises are not financial assets). Deputy Healy sought that a wealth tax be placed on very large financial assets of the super-rich.

The arrogant response of Minister Howlin (standing in for Eamonn Gilmore) was to describe the question as “drivel” and to accuse Deputy Healy of proposing “fantasy taxes” He suggested that an increase in income tax on those on 595,000 would not yield significant revenue (Conservative friends of the rich have been making this argument for centuries) . He claimed that the local property tax which leaves the financial assets of the wealthy untouched and applies to the unemployed was an adequate response.

Any reasonably numerate person can calculate that an extra tax on the total of 5.95 Billion earned each year by the top 10,000 income recipients and on the 324 billion in financial assets would bring significant extra revenue to the state. Howlin and the Labour Party do not want to listen. They attack the poor and those on middle incomes instead. That is why the Labour Party is heading for wipe-out and oblivion.

Seamus Healy TD

Irish Examiner Friday April 11 Juno McEnroe

Independent TD Seamus Healy yesterday called on the Government to introduce an asset or wealth tax in the next budget.

Speaking during Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil, Mr Healy pointed to ESRI findings that the last budget had the greatest impact on low-income groups.

Labour had reneged on election pledges in 2011 and cut payments for the vulnerable, including child benefit, he said.

“It made promises with full knowledge of the situation in 2011. The assets of the super rich are back above peak levels in 2006, according to the Central Statistics Office,” Mr Healy said.

He called on the Coalition to introduce a wealth tax on those who earn over €595,000 a year.

Brendan Howlin, the public expenditure minister, rejected his criticism and said the TD engaged in “fantasy” taxes.

Seamus Healy TD—Leaders Questions Thursday April 10

“For the second year in a row this Government has introduced a Budget that is deeply regressive, both socially and economically … Socially it hits people on low incomes, including the working poor, more than it hits the better off.

That is the result of the Government, the Labour Party in particular, reneging on the commitments given in the programme for Government and during the 2011 general election. One of the most blatant examples is the cut in child benefit. During the 2011 general election the Labour Party took out Tesco-like advertisements and at every door its candidates told voters that Fine Gael wanted to cut child benefit.”

Minister Howlin Refuses to Tax the 10,000 on 595,000 Per annum

Deputy Seamus Healy: The Minister has been inviting us to consider outcomes. Maybe we should examine some of the outcomes of the social and economic policy of this Government. The gap between rich and poor in Ireland is now four times the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, OECD, average. Incomes in the average Irish household have fallen by 50% and low income households lost a greater proportion of their income than the better off. The number of those in poverty has risen and the level of the poverty has deepened.

That is the view expressed recently by the OECD which confirmed the ESRI’s finding that budget 2014 had had the greatest impact on low income groups, the incomes of which had declined by 2%, and supported the claim by Social Justice Ireland that budget 2013 had been unjust and regressive. Social Justice Ireland stated:

For the second year in a row this Government has introduced a Budget that is deeply regressive, both socially and economically … Socially it hits people on low incomes, including the working poor, more than it hits the better off.

That is the result of the Government, the Labour Party in particular, reneging on the commitments given in the programme for Government and during the 2011 general election. One of the most blatant examples is the cut in child benefit. During the 2011 general election the Labour Party took out Tesco-like advertisements and at every door its candidates told voters that Fine Gael wanted to cut child benefit.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Is there a question or is this a speech?

Deputy Seamus Healy: Labour Party candidates asked the public to vote for them in order to stop child benefit cuts. The public put its trust in the Labour Party and what happened? The party has supported cuts in child benefit every year since it entered government.

An Ceann Comhairle: I ask the Deputy to, please, put his question.

Deputy Seamus Healy: My question for the Minister—–

Deputy Brendan Howlin: The Deputy has a question.

Deputy Seamus Healy: My question for the Minister, if he will listen, is whether he will reverse the social welfare cuts, including, in particular, the cuts in child benefit, heating, fuel and telephone allowances for elderly people and the carer’s allowance. Is the Labour Party not ashamed, in this the centenary year of the 1913 Lockout and the party’s foundation—–
An Ceann Comhairle: I am sorry, but the Deputy is over time.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: He is well over time.

Deputy Seamus Healy: —– that it is introducing budgets that hit the low-paid rather than the super rich and the very wealthy?

Deputy Brendan Howlin: I have listened to the usual political drivel from the Deputy opposite.

Deputy Seamus Healy: It is true.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: It may have escaped the Deputy – perhaps his salary and other supports are too healthy – that we have just gone through the worst economic crisis in the history of the State. The Government has managed to pick up the broken pieces of a shattered economy and returned it to growth. The critical criteria people will consider are fundamental issues such as employment. How many people have jobs? When we entered government, the unemployment figure was heading towards 500,000. The Deputy is not interested in listening to me. He is fumbling with his papers.

Deputy Kathleen Lynch: He is preparing his second speech.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: The unemployment rate is now falling. It is still too high, at 290,000, but we expect it to fall below 11% this year. Nobody would have believed this a few years ago. We have stabilised our budgets and torn up the prom note, that despicable arrangement made by the previous Administration. We have brought confidence back to the economy. That is the judgment people will make.

The Deputy referred to commitments made by my party. He may not have noticed that it is not in a single party Government. We did not win an overall majority in the last general election. We negotiated a programme for Government with a party which had won significantly more seats than we had. However, if one considers the balance between all of the commitments made by my party and Fine Gael to the people, one will see that the vast bulk have been delivered on. For some Deputies opposite, the very prospect of recovery and renewal is anathema to their political outlook. There are Deputies on the Opposition side who revel in the misfortune of the people and the State because they think they can make political capital from it.

Deputy Seamus Healy: The policy of the Government is to make the poor and the less well-off pay.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: That is a lie.

Deputy Seamus Healy: It made promises with full knowledge of the situation in 2011. The assets of the super rich are back above peak levels in 2006, according to the Central Statistics Office.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: What does that mean?

Deputy Seamus Healy: It means that there are very wealthy people in this country.

An Ceann Comhairle: I am sorry, Deputy, but we are dealing with Leaders’ Questions.

Deputy Seamus Healy: The Government has chosen not to make them pay their fair share.

Deputy Paul Kehoe: The Deputy claims only to represent the poor. How many pensions is he getting?

An Ceann Comhairle: What is Deputy Seamus Healy’s supplementary question?

Deputy Seamus Healy: The Government has chosen not to impose an asset or wealth tax on the super rich. However, it is hitting poor and less well-off families.

An Ceann Comhairle: Will the Deputy, please, put his supplementary question?

Deputy Seamus Healy: There is wealth in this country that is not being taxed by the Government. Will the Minister introduce a tax on wealth and assets to ensure the very wealthy in society, that is, those who earn €595,000 a year and those who have significant assets, pay their fair share of taxes?

Deputy Brendan Howlin: The Deputy is probably aware that we have one of the most progressive income tax regimes in the world. Aside from only one country in the OECD, our progressive tax rate is the best.

Deputy Seamus Healy: Will the Government introduce a wealth or an asset tax?

An Ceann Comhairle: Please allow the Minister to reply.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Deputy Seamus Healy does not want to hear the reply.

Deputy Seamus Healy: I just want the Minister to answer the question.

An Ceann Comhairle: Everybody in the House wants to hear the reply. The Deputy has had his say.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: He had his say, but I am afraid that he just reads his script and is not interested in the reply. We have the second most progressive income tax regime, with a high marginal rate of tax, that we have defended because the crisis in the country requires everyone to make an appropriate contribution.

Deputy Seamus Healy: I am asking about a wealth or an asset tax.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: When we introduce asset taxes, for example, a local property tax which is regarded as the norm among social democratic parties, the Deputy opposite opposes them. He is only in favour of fantasy taxes on fantasy people.

Deputy Seamus Healy: A Fine Gael Minister did it in the past.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: If we were to impose a tax on those earning in excess of €590,000, as the Deputy suggests, how many people would it cover and how much would accrue to the State?

Deputy Seamus Healy: There are 10,000 such individuals.

An Ceann Comhairle: I guarantee the Deputy silence when he is asking a question. Will he, please, respect the respondent?

Deputy Seamus Healy: I would like an answer.

An Ceann Comhairle: Please stay quiet.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Deputy Seamus Healy is not interested in the answer. He is only interested in making a stump speech. His greatest regret is that the Government’s economic policies are driving recovery and job creation and bringing investment into the State.