Dé Sathairn, Lúnasa 07, 2010

Unnecessary Health Cuts & the Give-away of our Natural Resources


In recent weeks, the Fianna Fáil/Green party coalition have been flagging up yet further cutbacks they plan to introduce in the upcoming budget. This follows a series of the most savage budget cutbacks imposed since the foundation of the 26 county state.

This administration's policies has decimated the economy, created mass unemployment (22,000 + in Donegal alone), driven thousands of families into poverty, forced tens of thousands of young people to emigrate once more and systematically stripped down our hospitals and health services to crisis point.

Not content to see tens of thousands of people lose their jobs, the government heaped further misery on already struggling familes by slashing their social welfare, cutting child benefit, ending the Chrismas bonus, introducing the carbon Tax and increasing fuel costs. All this has led to a sharp decline in people's living standards and has caused increased poverty.

Institute of Public Health in Ireland research published in 2007 claimed that fuel poverty directly effects people’s health. According to the Report, every year during the winter months, almost 3,000 people die due to preventable, cold-related illness.

Figures from the Central Statistics Office show that, in 2008, more than four per cent of people were living in consistent poverty, with almost 15 per cent at risk of poverty. Almost a third of those living in consistent poverty were children. All those figures will have risen dramatically over the past two years as unemployment soared and wages and welfare were cut.

In recent weeks we have seen HSE proposals to slash services even further at Letterkenny General Hospital and elsewhere throughout the state. Smaller hospitals such as Lifford's community hospital and the Sheil Hospital in Ballyshannon face closure also. Such cuts, if the government get their way, will mean severe reductions in essential services, longer waiting lists, increased workloads for already overburdened front line hospital staff and increased suffering and even deaths for patients who will not get the medical care and assistance they need when they need it.

However, if that was not bad enough, the HSE's political masters are now intent in forcing through even more severe cutbacks in the upcoming budget. They are planning to slash the Health, Education and Social Welfare Budgets by €1.1 billion, €700 million of that from an already underfunded, understaffed and under-resourced health service.

Fianna Fáil say these cuts are necessary but the reality is the opposite. There is no excuse for cutting funding and services for hospitals. It is a deliberate political decision and strategy based on Fianna Fáil's and the now-defunct PD's right wing privatisation ideology.

When it comes to throwing tens of billions of euros to bail out the banks or €8 million to bring the Commander in Chief of the British army Elizabeth Windsor to this state next year Fianna Fáil and the Greens have no problem. Yet ask them to invest in our hospitals and and they tell us the money is not there.

But the money is there, only they believe bailing out banks is more important than our health. This remains a wealthy state, however the wealth is controlled by a small minority. As workers and those on welfare have seen their incomes slashed, the rich in this state have become even richer. Yet the administration in Leinster House refuses to introduce a wealth tax and refuses to nationalise our natural resources which would bring in hundreds of billions of euros that could be used to create a first class health service for all.

Under the seabed off the coast of Mayo, Sligo and Donegal lies oil and gas that rightfully belong to the Irish people. These valuable resources are worth at least €500 billion and in all likelihood far in excess of that. Yet, in one of the most shameful decisions ever made, Fianna Fáil signed away the rights to this vast wealth to private multinational oil giants like Shell, who have an appalling environmental and human rights record around the world.

But it is not too late to do something about this – all that is lacking is the political will. This wealth, could and should be used to reverse the savage welfare and pay cuts and to create jobs and stem the flow of young people emigrating. It should be used to eradicate the shameful blight of poverty that continues to increase. It should be used to, not just reverse the cuts at Letterkenny General Hospital and elsewhere, but to invest in creating efficient health and education services accessible and available to all based on need, as opposed to a person's wealth.

In short, it should be used to create a fairer society, one that cherishes all the children of the nation equally in line with the 1916 proclamation, with a better standard of living for all. So the next time you hear a Fianna Fáil politician telling you how these cuts are unavoidable and how hard decisions have to be made, dont hesitate in telling them that the decisions they need to make are to tax the wealthy, nationalise our natural resources and to fund our hospitals, not the banks. Your health is more important than keeping the wealthy political and business elite living in the luxurious lifestyles they are accustomed to.

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