Call for accessable hospital services
Sinn Féin Asembly Health Committee member Sue Ramsey, representing West Belfast, Fermanagh and South Tyrone Assembly member Michelle Gildernew and Chairperson of the Sinn Féin Health Policy Group, Sinn Féin Balmoral representative Stephen Long, publicly launched on Monday the party's submission to the Hayes Acute Hospital Review Group.
Speaking at the launch, Sue Ramsey said: ``Sinn Féin welcomes the enlightened remit of the review. It is neither Board or boundary based and has scope to examine the benefits of cooperation with other parts of Ireland.
``The legacy of underfunding by successive British governments needs to be highlighted by the Hayes Review.
``Also, for too long there has been a piecemeal approach to planning. We have seen the withdrawal of hospitals services, which is impacting on rural areas. It is time for the development of a comprehensive strategic framework for the development of our acute services.''
Michelle Gildernew pointed out that many of the inequalities in the provision of acute care are a direct result of the fragmentation of planning. ``The present structure and limitations in overseeing planning and delivery means there can be no overall strategic approach,'' she said. ``An inaccessable service is not a quality service. Just as targets for waiting lists have been developed, we need to develop targets for accessability.
``There is a problem with the use of quotas to govern clinical standards. The removal of services from the South Tyrone Hospital demonstrates that the operation of quotas is detrimental to the accessable delivery of services.''
Among the party's key recommendations are greater all-Ireland cooperation to make better use of resources, to build clinical expertise and to deliver accessability and the creation of a strategic planning framework to oversee the delivery of all hospital services and an end to fragmentation of planning.
Move health spending to where it's most needed
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has expressed concern at the amount of pay and bonuses being paid to Chief Executives of Six-County Trust Boards.
The Sinn Féin leader said: ``We require the maximum amount of money being spent on health care and the minimum amount on administration.
``The greatest asset of the health services throughout Ireland is its staff. The clinical expertise and commitment of all staff is world-renowned. Travel throughout the world and you meet Irish nurses and doctors who are leaders in their fields.
``In April, the Audit Office produced a report which lambasted a number of Health and Social Services Trusts for awarding pay increases which were far beyond the level of inflation and were excessive by anyone's reckoning. One executive received a rise of 39% and a number now receive in excess of £100,000 per year.
``We also have a situation where performance related pay for each Trust Chief Executive is set by Trust Boards following recommendations by the Trust Board's Remuneration Committee. Over the last six years, this has led to performance-related pay and bonuses in excess of £270,000. This is on top of standard pay awards.
``The issue of chief executive pay awards is starting to be addressed in the Health, Personal and Social Service (Amendment) Bill currently going through the committee stage at Stormont.
``Excessive pay demands are not restricted to management. In the 26 Counties it is estimated that 1,150 consultants receive in excess of £150,000 by combining private (VHI) work with their public health commitments.
``If we compare these to the starting salary of a medical technician (£7,000) or to a nurse in the 26 counties (£IR23,000), we can see an unequal health service developing.
``This situation is exacerbated in the north of Ireland as we have a centralised department, four Health Boards and 26 Trust Boards, each with their own sets of administration and with each trust setting its own terms and conditions. So even with a small health service in the north of Ireland, we have huge pay differentials within trusts and differentials between trusts.
``A worrying aspect is also that a segment of a health manager's wage is made up of performance-related pay or bonuses. These are calculated not on the quality of service patients receive nor or they based on improvements in the health of the patients in their care. They are in the most part related to savings and throughput of patients.
``There is a requirement on all of us to address these issues to ensure that the maximum amount of health care money is spent on patient care and that improvements in service is measured in terms of quality and the general health and wellbeing of our communities.''
Silent Valley grazing ban challenged
Sinn Féin Assembly Agriculture and Rural Development spokesperson, Fermanagh and
South Tyrone Assembly member Gerry McHugh, has called for a closer look at the grazing ban affecting farmers in the Silent Valley. He wants the scientific facts - on whether the Cryptosporidium bug is linked to sheep grazing specifically or to all grazing in general - to be established.
McHugh said: ``I asked [DARD officials] if in this instance, as the ban seems to be more appropriate to sheep grazing, is there flexibility to allow limited use of cattle for grazing in the Silent Valley in order to safeguard future area aid payments. The loss of income to local farmers under the area aid payments could be substantial because of the loss in the acreage of land available for grazing.
``The Agriculture committee has also heard that there has been little discussion or negotiation between DARD officials in the north and their southern counterparts. In Donegal, where there are similar problems, the southern agriculture department has already said they will compensate farmers for the duration of the problems.
``I have also asked the department if there will be testing done to establish, on a sound scientific basis, the reasons for the grazing ban and if it is confined only to the grazing of sheep.
``It would also seem to be short sighted of the department to allow the area to become overgrown with subsequent deterioration in the physical beauty of an area, which has been sustained by the use of grazing sheep.
``The Environmental Heritage department is also in the process of designating the area as an ASSI - an area of special scientific interest. Farmers are suspicious of the real agenda of those placing a lengthy ban on the grazing of the area and the future consequences for local farmers.''
Incinerator risk shows need for All-Ireland waste policy
Sinn Féin Chairperson, Foyle MLA Mitchel McLaughlin has said that the truth about the health risks associated incinerators must be heard, after a recent report highlighted that 88 deaths per year in Britain were caused by pollution from incinerator emissions.
McLaughlin said: ``In Britain, a Department of Environment report released earlier this year showed that 88 people die and 168 people are hospitalised every year for lung-related diseases associated with emissions from its 12 incinerators. The detailed report also said that people's lives will be shortened by cancer-causing dioxins from incinerators.
``These alarming figures highlight the need for an immediate moratorium on all incinerator projects here in Ireland until we can put in place a longterm all-Ireland waste management strategy. We need an all-Ireland waste management strategy because clearly what happens in Louth or Derry will effect everybody on this island.''
Time to promote angling tourism in the north
Sinn Féin's Deputy Chairperson of the Assembly Culture, Arts and Leisure Committee, Mary Nelis, has said that it is time to promote angling tourism in the Six Counties.
``During the committee's inquiry into fishing,'' Nelis said, ``it has become clear that there is real underdevelopment in the area of angling tourism in the north of Ireland.
``Department officials revealed that 8,000 people a year enjoy angling in the north of Ireland and contribute to our angling tourist industry. This compares with 139,000 people who contribute to the angling tourism industry in the south.
``A recent visit by the committee to Galway highlighted exactly what this can mean for local economies. Revenue from boat rental, the sale of fishing supplies, Bed & Breakfast accommodation, restaurants and bars has the potential to contribute significantly to our local economies.
``The work of all-Ireland bodies such as Waterways Ireland are setting the precedence for substantial growth in the tourist industry. It is now time to look at how we can develop the potential for growth in angling tourism that the south been so effective at exploiting. Both the minister, Reg Empey and the Tourism Board need to take the lead in promoting angling tourism.''