The Taoiseach and his Minister for Health cannot continue to shrug off responsibility for cuts to local health services and choices on the use of the HSE’s budget, according to Fianna Fáil Health Spokesperson Billy Kelleher.


Deputy Kelleher was commenting after the Taoiseach Enda Kenny today refused to answer direct questions in the Dáil about a shock announcement this week that hospital transport services are being stopped for cancer and dialysis patients in the west of the country.


Deputy Kelleher explained, “In just over a week’s time, hundreds of cancer and dialysis patients in the west of the country who are dependent on HSE transport to get to hospital for treatment will no longer be provided with this service. I am appalled by the way in which they were informed of this cut and the fact that they have been given little or no notice.


“Regional HSE management wrote to the relevant hospitals at the beginning of this week to inform them that the budget for ambulance transport for cancer and dialysis patients will no longer be available from July 1st. It has caused great distress among hundreds of patients, many of whom are elderly and very ill and have no way of getting to hospital for vital treatment after next week.


“This local drip-feed of information about health issues appears to be a deliberate strategy and must stop. After dismissing the professional board, the HSE is now under the direct political charge of the Minister of Health James Reilly, who solemnly promised during the general election campaign to protect vital health services. The constant passing the buck between the Minister, central management in the HSE and regional and local HSE management makes it impossible for people to get accurate information and coherent decision-making from the health authority.


“Minister Reilly claims to have taken personal control of what is happening in our health service. It’s now time for him to start taking responsibility. Despite the widespread distress across the west of Ireland about this latest cut, the Taoiseach was all too quick to dodge the issue when questioned in the Dáil today. In fact, he claimed that “no decision had been made”. This seems to be the standard Government practice when an unpopular decision emerges, but if it is true then Minister Reilly must clarify the situation and stop local elements of the HSE from issuing statements that only cause unnecessary distress.”