I have raised on a number of occasions in the House the value and importance of the hospice movement and the enormous public support it enjoys from many volunteers and the public generally who fund and contribute to hospices. In particular, I refer to Marymount in Cork, Blanchardstown, Raheny, Galway Hospice and the mid-west hospice in Milford, Co. Limerick. They are continually being disadvantaged by Government policy and left in unsustainable positions in terms of funding, recruitment and retention. The recent Workplace Relations Commission, WRC, agreement worsens their position and creates an unsustainable funding pathway for them to retain and recruit staff because essentially it breaks the historic link these hospices had with their HSE employees and confirms a two-tier workforce in perpetuity. The agreement covers only those who worked in the hospices at the time the FEMPI legislation was introduced. New people coming in are not covered. There is no retrospection.
The entire approach of Government for the past year and a half has been as mean-spirited as one can get towards these hospices. It is a slap in the face to the thousands of volunteers who support them and to the public who fundraise for them. It flies in the face of the national palliative care strategy, which the Government announced with fanfare last year. It is also contrary to the policies of Sláintecare, which recommends full integration of palliative care with acute hospital care within the health service. Hospices are an essential part of our health service; they are not an ancillary service. The Government's approach to pay policy has been to continue to treat them as an ancillary service. They provide community care, home care packages and vital interventions at critical parts of a person's journey with cancer or other serious illnesses. Their model is the one we should aspire to for other areas of care within our health services. They are enormously important in alleviating pressures on acute services.
I met with representatives of Marymount Hospice yesterday. It costs approximately €20 million to run it on current funding, some €3 million of which is raised by the citizens of Cork and the surrounding region. The same can be said of Milford, Galway, Blanchardstown and Raheny, yet they are treated in a discriminatory manner by the Government, which must stop. In Marymount's case, as the people to whom I spoke made clear, they had to fund the pay restoration under the national agreement, which cost €277,000 in 2017, €562,000 to date this year and is expected to cost €798,000 for the full year. They told me they cannot afford to deliver the current quantum of services. Decisions are under consideration and review about cuts to services. They had to cancel community visits to people and they are considering closing specialist palliative care beds in the hospice, which could happen as early as next January.
Is it not time to treat these hospices as essential parts of our health service, as other hospitals and health institutions are, and transition them to section 38 agencies in order that they can enjoy the same pay scales as everybody else within the HSE?