I welcome the Taoiseach and his inconsistent band of amnesiacs back from Disneyland, which they visited last weekend. I welcome them back to the reality that stalks the streets. The problems of the North Eastern Health Board have become symptomatic of what is wrong with the health sector under the Taoiseach's governance. There has been a litany of serious events in this health board area: the misconduct of a senior gynaecologist in Drogheda which affected the lives of dozens of women; the problems in Monaghan General Hospital such as the death of baby Bronagh Livingstone and the birth of another young girl on the way to Cavan General Hospital; and the problems in Cavan hospital which included the tragic death of a child following a routine operation and interpersonal rows. There have been 15 cases in Cavan hospital of what were officially called adverse clinical incidents but to the public were medical mistakes which have resulted in suffering for patients.
These are the realities of the health service: the failures, shortages, inaccessibility, inequity, queuing and misery facing patients who are on trolleys day in, day out. They are compounded by the false promises made by the Taoiseach and members of the Government in recent years. It is now obvious that members of the Government are prepared to say, do and promise anything to stay in power.
On 7 May 2002 the Taoiseach made a specific commitment to the people. He said that Fianna Fáil would permanently end hospital waiting lists within two years irrespective of any downturn in the economy. That promise left no room for doubt. The words used were not "seriously reduce" or "dramatically reduce"; they were "permanently end". In the 22 intervening months the numbers on waiting lists have increased by at least 2,000.
It was the height of hypocrisy and the ultimate in brass neck for the Taoiseach to state, while speaking in this House and to the nation last weekend, that his Government would permanently end waiting lists. When did he understand that this promise would not be met? How can people believe a word that comes out of his mouth when speaking of the area that is now of greatest concern to everybody, the health sector?