We have arrived at a stage in this country where whatever this Government states is quite unbelievable, whether on the subject of recent events or in the form of general statements. It is a few years ago since the then Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Cowen, told us that 32,000 people were on the waiting list. In 2002, the then Minister, Deputy Martin, made a specific Government commitment that he would end waiting lists in two years. The current Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney, said in May this year that the HSE would find efficiencies that would not impact on patients. This is in the context of the Government giving clawbacks of over €100,000 to people who are able to buy their first house for a price in excess of €1 million. There are now 41,000 persons on the waiting lists of hospitals around the country.
The Minister for Health and Children said on 21 September that no patient would suffer because of cutbacks introduced across the country. I have met consultant after consultant who has told me that patients die at the end of waiting lists because services cannot be provided for them. Patients die, which is a direct contradiction of what the Government has been saying. Every day we hear of more and more of these cutbacks in various locations around the country such as 30 nurses and four consultants sacked from Sligo General Hospital; dental services for children in Inchicore and Bluebell cancelled; the 24-hour accident and emergency service at the Mid-Western Regional Hospital in Ennis ended; breast cancer services at 13 hospitals closed and no other service put in their place; the 24-hour bed unit for the rehabilitation of elderly patients at Merlin Park closed, with another to follow; and the cancellation of essential suicide prevention training in the form of applied suicide prevention skills. One can go into any community in this country and see what is happening.
In recent days we have learned that Monaghan General Hospital will be stripped of further services and will have to suffer the removal of another ward despite recent expenditure. The Midland Regional Hospital in Mullingar is to cut medical day cases by 55 per month. In South Tipperary General Hospital in Clonmel, an operating theatre and six surgical inpatient beds will be lost.
The Government stated clearly this month that no patient would suffer because of cutbacks. Meanwhile, Ministers sit in this House and act as if they had no responsibility in the matter, as if the HSE made its decisions at a remove from Government. I remind the Taoiseach that hospital consultants have told me, face to face, that people are dying at the end of waiting lists because they are not able to get a service which we should provide for them. Is the Taoiseach telling me that he is spending €15 billion on a world class health service? The Government is unbelievable in everything it states, from the Taoiseach to his Ministers. Can the Taoiseach say how the 41,000 patients on waiting lists can have any confidence in what they hear coming out of the mouths of Ministers of this Government?