Sinn Féin spokesperson on Health, David Cullinane TD, commenting on the ESRI review of the National Development Plan, has said that “major regional imbalances” and “deficits in critical healthcare infrastructure” have been known for some time.
Teachta Cullinane said that the Minister for Health has been promising additional capital investment, particularly in 1500 much-needed hospital inpatient beds, but that the Government decided not to fund the health service to the required level in Budget 2024.
The TD for Waterford added that the HSE’s ability to recruit and retain enough staff, also identified as a challenge by the review particularly in social care, was hurt by the Government’s decision to highly limit the number of net additional posts in 2024 to one-third of the level achieved in the three previous years.
Teachta Cullinane said:
“The Minister for Health does not have a credible plan to address the critical infrastructure deficits across the health service, or to address serious and major regional imbalances. At best, he has an unfunded wish-list.
“The ESRI review of the National Development Plan clearly highlights significant regional unfairness, which has been known for some time and is reflected in waiting lists and trolley numbers. The review also highlights difficulties recruiting and retaining enough staff in the right places.
“Government made a deliberate decision to underfund the health service in 2024, despite knowing it would harm recruitment and hurt the HSE’s ability to catch up on infrastructure deficits.
“This means that improvements in crucial area like CAMHS, community programmes for chronic pain, and services for older people will be delayed, there will be further challenges in delivering children’s healthcare and early intervention, and hospitals will continue to be hamstrung when trying to deal with the trolley crisis and years-long waiting lists.
“While the Minister has made several announcements about 1500 new hospital inpatient beds, which are urgently needed, he has failed to secure funding for them from Government. He also failed to secure enough new posts to address recruitment and retention problems, which will be a major challenge for the health service.
“There are thousands of graduates and trainees coming through the system, and without investment in infrastructure and without enough approved posts, many of them will be forced to look to the private sector or to emigrate abroad for work.
“The supply of long-term residential care is a major concern which we share, and the sector is becoming dominated by private finance-backed corporate nursing homes. The current funding model is encouraging a race to the bottom and driving further regional imbalances in nursing home care.
“This is driving local community/voluntary and private nursing homes out of business, and the Government has not invested in public capacity. The Government must look at public investment in the sector, as well as working conditions across the social care sector. Sinn Féin has been calling for a collective pay bargain to address these concerns.”