October 11, 2022
Short-term ‘Winter Plan’ cold comfort for frontline healthcare workers – David Cullinane TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Health, David Cullinane TD, has criticised the Minister for Health’s Winter Plan, saying that it has come too late to make a difference this winter. 

He said that the time to plan for this winter was last year’s budget, and the time to plan for next winter was the budget just gone.

Teachta Cullinane said that last year’s winter plan has not yet been fully implemented, and that additional beds announced in February are not even planned for delivery this year.

The Waterford TD criticised the government’s reactive approach to managing the health service, saying that the many long-term problems cannot be solved by throwing short term one-year plans at them.

Teachta Cullinane said:

“The winter plan announced today will be cold comfort for healthcare workers on the frontline, who are bracing for another horrendous winter. They know that October is far too late to start planning for winter.

“The time to plan for this winter was last year’s budget, and now is the time to plan for next winter. The winter plan also fails to recognise that our hospitals are in crisis year-round, not only during winter.

“There is no additional funding for this plan, and there is no lead-in time to get new measures up and running. The many long-term problems cannot be solved by throwing short term one-year plans at them.

“The 72 beds announced in the HSE’s service plan in February haven’t even been delivered yet and are not even due to be delivered this year.

“Sinn Féin set out a clear multi-annual plan for the health service in our alternative budget this year, which would be funded over a 10-year period to cut long waits.

“This government’s reactive, crisis management approach to healthcare is part of the problem. The Health Service cannot open new beds at the drop of a hat. 

“Waiting lists are up more than 30,000 already this year, and emergency department waits are on average 12 hours for admitted patients. The Minister’s short-term waiting list plan is, as predicted, 65,000 appointments behind target.

“There are almost 1,000 consultant posts which are either vacant or filled on a temporary basis, we still don’t have a new consultant contract, and the Minister has yet to resolve the dispute with junior doctors.

“This plan, as we saw as well in the Budget for 2023, relies far too heavily on outsourcing to the private sector instead of increased investment in the public service. 

“It will also do nothing for the tens of thousands of children with disabilities or mental health challenges who are languishing on months-long waiting lists for access to services.

“It is a short-term plan for acute hospitals which pales in comparison to the investments and reforms necessary across acute, community, and primary care which are needed to reduce pressure on the health service during the winter and year-round.”

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