The simplest statistic is that one third of the population will eventually develop significant vascular disease, one third of the population will have some form of cancer, and other disorders will take care of the rest of population. This emphasises the importance of any intervention that deals with cardiovascular disease without going into complicated numbers.
I support very much what Ms Sophie Charles has said, especially the point about ring-fencing funding. It is important to appreciate that the majority of programmes are in the public hospitals and are utilised by patients who have private health insurance and by those who do not have it. Some private hospitals have only begun to provide programmes in recent times. To the best of my knowledge, none of the insurance companies provides any support for this. I may not be accurate about that in the context of the past six months but, to the best of my knowledge, most people who attend a rehabilitation programme in a private hospital would be self-funding.
We carried out a study some years ago during which we examined the cost of rehabilitation from the cost of the ECG paper through to all the salaries involved. We worked out that for the standard ten-week programme it costs approximately €950 to provide three sessions a week for each individual over a ten-week period. We then examined a four-week programme. One can provide an excellent programme with all the facets for just under €600 over a four-week period and one will get a training response and benefit from the dietary and other advice given. Deputy O'Sullivan mentioned the cost involved. The cost is not excessive given that most of those here will have had some test carried out somewhere. We are talking about a cost of hundreds of euro for the carrying out of tests, irrespective of their nature. Therefore, €900 is a good cost for a ten-week programme for a person where he or she will be treated by well-trained professionals with great experience. The coterie of people delivering this service in Ireland is very good. Members heard the president of the association speak impressively, and she is only one of many who are delivering this service. It was wonderful to hear Deputy O'Connor speak so well about the excellent programme in Tallaght. This programme is not very costly. While these are dreadful times, ring-fencing the amounts is not great, having regard to what is required. Ms Charles spoke about losing staff owing to current policies. That is having a serious impact, of that there is no doubt. I support her on that point.
I wish to make a few general comments. There is no problem about looking after older people. Our population is ageing. Older people are hugely enthused about entering the rehabilitation programmes. One section of the community we have to persuade to participate is ladies. If women enter the programmes, they are fantastic participants but often they are reluctant to do so. There are a number of reasons for that which I will not go into, but there is good literature on this. Women tend to be ten years older than men when they develop significant cardiovascular disease. It involves a little effort to persuade women to enter programmes. There are a variety of reasons for that and this is probably not germane to what we are discussing. The special interest group and people such as Ms Charles and her colleagues work hard to get women to enter the programmes.
Deputy Aylward asked how we get patients. It would be simply by my saying to a person that he or she would have to go into the rehabilitation programme and that was the only course for that person to go. There are not enough programmes. Regrettably, not everyone can be accommodated and sometimes by the time people get an invitation to enter a programme, they have self-rehabilitated and that is a difficulty. We would like far more programmes to be available. That is an important aspect.
A related issue is that it would be nice if more programmes were available for people in rural Ireland. If one lives in Donegal, there is an excellent programme in Letterkenny and it has developed an outreach programme but, unfortunately, one of the outreach programmes had to close owing , I believe, to a lack of funding. It is difficult geographically in a county like Donegal for everyone to be facilitated in Letterkenny. Those problems are replicated in other parts of Ireland, which is perhaps germane to Deputy Aylward's question about where these programmes are in place. Some of the big cities have programmes. For example, Limerick city is not terribly well provided for. There is a programme, which a number of dedicated people have put together, in the Mid-Western Regional Hospital in Dooradoyle, but that is it and it is the service for the whole county. There are blackspots in terms of the provision of programmes.