I was reading again the programme for Government in respect of health, which I have described as one of the great works of political fiction. Let me read the key passage:
This Government will introduce Universal Health Insurance with equal access to care for all. Under this system there will be no discrimination between patients on the grounds of income or insurance status. The two-tier system of unequal access to hospital care will end.
Yesterday, the Taoiseach admitted that his Government had failed in achieving that objective. Leaving aside that objective, I put a question to the Taoiseach yesterday on how he and his Government could have approved the HSE's health service plan for 2016 when the executive itself said it was €100 million short for hospitals. The Taoiseach approved funding for health knowing that the HSE is already, in January, €100 million short of what is required to meet the needs of acute hospitals. When I put the question to him, he refused to answer it and implied that the HSE requests every year more money than it gets. In other words, he is playing poker with people's lives.
I ask the Taoiseach to read again pages 90 and 91 of the health service plan. It outlines that there will be a growing and ageing population and greater demand on hospital services. There are overcrowded emergency departments. Cork and Beaumont hospitals are closed to elective admissions. Operations are not being carried out. St. Vincent's hospital was described by a public representative yesterday as being like a war zone, and it was stated the experience of patients there is unimaginable. That hospital had highest number of patients on trolleys in the country yesterday.
People are afraid to go to emergency departments and hospitals. A community nurse in Galway told me that elderly citizens were begging her not to send them into the emergency department in Galway. That is what is happening and there seems to be no realisation of it. Waiting times are getting longer and the numbers on the waiting lists are increasing because of the consistent neglect of health by the Government.
The Minister for Health, Deputy Leo Varadkar, said he will have to use private hospitals and overtime to try to deal with the problem now in the first weeks of January.