There have been many pre-election promises made in recent days. The Minister for Health has been at it again in outlining his vision of the health services in the years ahead. I suppose this is to camouflage the fact that the pre-election promises of 2011 have not been fully honoured. The vast majority of them have been shredded and totally ignored.
The Minister for Health made a speech recently to Chartered Accountants Ireland in which he effectively outlined the end of the public health services as we know them. He said he is strongly of the view that the hospital groups or trusts, if one likes to call them that, should have authority and freedom to make collective agreements, manage their own assets and payroll and negotiate independent contracts to recruit managers and specialists outside of the constraints of public sector rules in the way semi-State bodies now do. He added, to make things worse, that where these trusts or hospitals consistently underperform in clinical outcomes, patient experience and financial management, it should be open to the provider to transfer management of the hospital for a period to private providers by means of a concession or management contract.
There is a strong attachment to the public health service in this country, although it is under-resourced, underfunded and facing major challenges in trying to provide basic levels of service. That is primarily down to lack of resourcing. Week in and week out, we have seen illustrations of that in our accident and emergency departments across the country. There are consistent increases in outpatient and inpatient waiting lists. Nevertheless, it is important that the Tánaiste, coming towards the end of this Government, outlines whether Labour is in cahoots with the Thatcherite policies of the Minister, Deputy Varadkar, when it comes to privatisation of large tracts or our public health services. Is the Tánaiste in agreement with the concept of farming out our public health services to private management companies, establishing something like an Irish Water, to be managed by an accountancy firm that will not take into account the social need aspects of our public health services? Will the Tánaiste today assuage the concerns out there that our public health services could be handed over to private management companies in the years ahead if Fine Gael and Labour are returned to office?