Fianna Fáil Health Spokesperson Billy Kelleher has said it is clear that the Government is failing to protect the most vulnerable in society by directly cutting frontline health services, including closing acute hospital beds, operating theatres and step-down community facilities.

Deputy Kelleher was speaking in advance of Fianna Fáil’s Private Members Motion on the Health Service in the Dáil this evening and tomorrow.  He said: “We have already seen the severity of Minister Reilly’s cuts on frontline services: increasing waiting lists, falling private health insurance provision, and hundreds of community bed closures.

“There is a chaotic situation in the health service with no sense of control or who’s in charge. We’ve seen waiting times getting worse, up 47% on December 2010, for people waiting for operations for longer than six months.  It’s worth nothing that that is an internationally recognised target which the Minister decided could be pushed out to 12 months for himself.

“We have a Minister in James Reilly who is focussed more on spin than on delivery.  Take for example his much heralded Special Delivery Unit (SDU).  The National Treatment Purchase Fund was given specific targets to drive waiting lists down and it did that over many years. The Minister has taken over the NTPF funding and hijacked it for the SDU. The waiting lists and waiting times are increasing daily. This is dysfunctional and is not rewarding efficiency within hospitals.

“It’s also important to note that we still don’t know who the SDU reports to. Minister Reilly, when he’s seeing to be action man, will step up to the mark but in reality and law it should be the HSE. While at the same time we hear this week that Martin Connor, the Minister’s most trust advisor in the SDU is part-time and when he’s not here, he’s in Los Angeles.  All hope was put on the SDU and now we find out it has a part-time General on leave while his army is on duty.  One could only imagine how animated and colourful a condition Dr. Reilly would find himself in over this if he were not the Minister presiding over it.

“It is widely accepted that the control structures and governance structures of the health service are a mess and morale is extremely low, not helped by the fact that Minister Reilly saw fit to blame the HSE for everything that went wrong, in opposition and in Government.

“The Government is cutting €750m from the health service this year.  This will see up to 898 community hospital beds close across the country, it will result in surgeries being cancelled and acute beds being close for use.  It is too much, the Minister knows it is too much, and he knows there is no-one making him impose these cuts except his own Government.”