Reilly blames Fianna Fáil for 'mess'

 

MINISTER FOR Health James Reilly lashed out at Fianna Fáil as he defended his performance in Government yesterday.

Responding to the Opposition motion of no confidence in him the Minister said what Fianna Fáil was complaining about was “the speed with which the Government is clearing the mess they – Fianna Fáil – created”.

He said party leader, former minister for health Micheál Martin was the “designer in chief of a new health service where he created an unaffordable, unsustainable and grossly inefficient bureaucracy”, and instead of efficiencies and reduced overheads from merging 11 health boards “we got all the idiosyncratic inefficiencies” of those boards.

Dr Reilly said he had achieved a 20 per cent reduction, in the number of people lying on trolleys in hospital AE departments. That was 13,000 fewer, even with a €1.75 billion cut last year and one of €750 million this year.

There were no Cabinet Ministers in the Dáil as the Minister defended his record but departmental colleague Minister of State Kathleen Lynch sat beside him for his speech, attending with 18 of the Coalition’s 109 TDs.

Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte later defended Dr Reilly and offered “my support for and confidence in the Minister and the huge challenge he has been left”.

Hitting out at Fianna Fáil he said “in times of plenty they had the unique distinction of making things worse”.

He criticised the party’s “pious claptrap” about not being interested in the old “Punch and Judy politics”. Mr Rabbitte said if he were Micheál Martin and had done what he had done to the country and the health service in particular, “I’d crawl under a stone in the Burren and start to commune with nature for the rest of the time that I’d be around”.

Dr Reilly deserved support and “not the kind of hypocrisy” and “same old codology” Fianna Fáil was bringing in.

Fianna Fáil health spokesman Billy Kelleher said Dr Reilly came to power saying he had a mandate to reform how the health services were delivered.

“Unfortunately, Minister, that mandate was sought under false pretences,’’ he said.

“Promises had been made in Roscommon, in the northeast and in Cork about cutting consultants’ pay and the abolition of prescription charges.”

The health services were facing chaos and crisis but the Minister, he claimed, had failed to secure a budget which was sustainable for the services.

“What we had in December 2011, for this year’s budget, was dishonest at the very least, Minister.”

Sinn Féin health spokesman Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said his party’s motion was prompted by the €130 million in further cuts announced by the HSE last month. The reduction was on top of the over €750 million taken out of the health services in the last budget.

“We warned that such cuts would compromise frontline services and this is exactly what is happening now,” he added.

Mr Ó Caolain said that since taking office, the Minister had made great play of his determination to take the reins in his own hands and return executive responsibility back to his office from the HSE.

“But where was Minister Reilly when the €130 million cuts were announced on August 30th?” he added.

“He left it to the HSE to be the bearers of bad news. He was nowhere to be seen and he had to be smoked out of hiding to answer to the media and the public.”

The debate concludes tonight.