Thursday, June 26, 2014

Supplementary health budget was €595 million in FF’s last year in Government

Fine Gael Meath East TD and member of the Oireachtas Health Committee, Regina Doherty, has today (Thursday) reminded Fianna Fáil that the supplementary budget for Health was €595 million during the Party’s last year in Government. Her comments come after Micheál Martin criticised the Government over the challenges facing the health budget for this year. 

“Fianna Fáil has absolutely no credibility to talk about the management of our health services or the health budget. In 2010, Fianna Fáil’s last year in Government, the supplementary budget for health was €595 million. In 2001, when Micheál Martin was Minister for Health and money was plentiful, the supplementary budget was €250 million. 

“In 14 of the last 17 years, there has been a supplementary budget in health. When Fianna Fáil was in charge of the health service it failed to introduce reforms and its only legacy is the establishment of the HSE, which has proven to be a completely inefficient structure.

“It is farcical that Fianna Fáil’s health spokesperson, Billy Kelleher, would claim that under Fianna Fáil, supplementary budgets were used to introduce ‘new services’. I wonder can Billy tell us what new services were introduced in 2010, when the biggest ever supplementary budget was needed?

“It is impossible to talk about the challenges facing the health sector without taking account of the huge budget reductions that have been necessary thanks to Fianna Fáil’s mismanagement of the economy. The health service has endured budget cuts totalling €3.3 billion, while at the same time demand has increased significantly and staff numbers have been reduced by 14,000.

“It’s also hard to listen to Fianna Fáil lecturing on health, when it doesn’t even have a policy of its own. Fianna Fáil went into the last General Election with a manifesto that didn’t even have a health section. 

“In 2013, Micheál Martin published a policy guide promising a detailed document on how the health system should work at a later stage. There’s still no sign of it. And the paper authored by Brian Turner, which the Party loves to mention, contained the following disclaimer: 'The views expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the School of Economics, University College Cork or Fianna Fáil.

“We recognise that our health system is dysfunctional, and that’s why we are replacing it with a new system of Universal Health Insurance with strong financial incentives through the introduction of Money Follows the Patient. Under very difficult circumstances, we are gradually getting health spending under control. Fianna Fáil should reflect on its own terrible record in health rather than shout hypocritically from the Opposition benches.”

Friday, June 20, 2014

Doherty and Buttimer urge HSE to fast track assessment of life changing MS drug

Fine Gael TDs and members of the Oireachtas Health Committee, Jerry Buttimer and Regina Doherty, are urging the HSE to fast track the assessment of a new life changing drug being used to treat Multiple Sclerosis. A number of MS patients are currently benefitting from a trial of Fampyra, but the trial is due to end shortly and the medication is not currently available on the General Medical Scheme (GMS).

The Deputies met with MS sufferers taking Fampyra last week and raised the issue with the Minister for Health, James Reilly TD, in the Dáil this week.

Deputy Doherty said: ‘The manufacturers of Fampyra, Biogen, were originally refused access to the GMS when they first applied. Biogen has made the drug available free of charge on a trial basis for some MS sufferers. It has had a transformative effect on their lives. These patients are now very concerned about how they will deteriorate when the drug trial ends later this month’.

“I was pleased to learn that Biogen has reapplied for inclusion in the GMS, which would allow the State to cover the cost of providing to these patients. I have urged the Minister to ensure the HSE fast tracks the application process so the MS sufferers can be put at ease about the supply of their medication.

“I agree with the Minister’s call for drug companies to engage in greater risk sharing when it comes to covering the cost of new medications. The State cannot be expected to foot the entire bill in every case. The Minister has said the HSE will deal with the Biogen application without delay, so I hope the application process can go ahead as quickly as possible.”

Deputy Buttimer said: ‘Fampyra has had a huge impact on the lives of patients with a certain strain of MS. It helps with mobility and walking speed, and also has an impact on hand function, allowing those with the disease to carry out routine functions much more easily. While it is encouraging that the manufacturer has resubmitted its application for inclusion on the GMS, I would also call on the company to continue to provide the drug free of charge until the situation is resolved’.

“Minister Reilly has said that he understands how anxious these patients are due to the impending end of their drug trial. They simply will not be able to afford to pay for the medication themselves and therefore I hope HSE can act quickly and include the Famprya on the GMS and community drugs schemes.”

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Martin must state whether he condones his justice spokesperson’s intervention in a criminal trial

Fine Gael Meath East TD, Regina Doherty, has today (Thursday) called on Fianna Fáil leader, Micheál Martin, to state whether he stands over his justice spokesperson’s intervention in a criminal trial.

“Micheál Martin must publicly state whether he thinks it is appropriate for his Party’s justice spokesperson to seek to influence the sentencing of a convicted drug dealer.

“It is not credible for Micheál Martin to stay silent on this issue.

“The actions of Deputy Collins leave his role as justice spokesperson severely compromised.

“As Party leader, Micheál Martin has a duty to state whether he condones the actions of Deputy Collins and whether he thinks it is acceptable for his Party’s justice spokesperson to plead for leniency in the sentencing of a drug dealer.”

Friday, June 13, 2014

McGuinness proves he is not an impartial chair with PAC outburst

Fine Gael Meath East TD, Regina Doherty, has today (Friday) strongly criticised Fianna Fáil TD, John McGuinness, for his outburst at two HSE chiefs during a hearing of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) yesterday, saying his comments prove he is not an impartial Chairman.

"Being Chair of the PAC seems to have gone to John McGuinness' head and he now sees himself as judge, jury and executioner. It is completely inappropriate to launch the kind of political attacks on public servants that he did at the PAC today.

“How can any future witness feel assured that they are in the hands of a fair, impartial and effective Chair when he cannot even control his own intemperate outbursts?

“The PAC has a proud tradition of getting to the truth in a non-political, professional manner and McGuinness risks undermining the entire committee system with his desire to turn it into a show trial.
“Furthermore, John McGuinness’ comments take absolutely no account of the fact that the budgetary challenges facing the Department of Health are a direct result of his Party’s mismanagement of the economy while he was a senior member of government.

“This is not the first time that Deputy McGuinness’ judgement has been brought into serious question. This is the man who:
  • Last year said the taxpayer should pay for ministers’ spouses on official trips after he was found to have brought his wife on State trips when he was minister
  • Took severance pay of more than €60,000 in 2011, despite an order from his Party leader for all former ministers to forgo such payments
  • Approved an upgrade of his ministerial office which ended up costing the taxpayer €250,000
  • Defended overtime payments of more than €30,000 in one year to his son, who worked for him while he was minister
“John McGuinness has left himself in an extremely compromised position following his latest case of poor judgement, when he saw fit to call for the heads of two senior public servants when he should have been acting as an independent Chair. His behaviour is unacceptable, and it is doing the PAC a disservice.”

Buttimer and Doherty urge HSE to allow patients to continue to receive vital MS drug

Fine Gael TDs and members of the Oireachtas Health Committee, Jerry Buttimer and Regina Doherty, have urged the HSE to take action to ensure Multiple Sclerosis (MS) patients can continue to receive a new drug which is significantly improving their condition. The TDs were speaking after they met with MS sufferers using the drug.

The drug - fampridine (Fampyra®) - is not currently available on the General Medical Scheme, and has been provided free of charge on a trial basis by the manufacturer to certain MS sufferers.

Deputy Buttimer said: ‘The use of the drug fampridine has had a huge impact on these patients’ lives. It helps MS sufferers with their mobility and walking speed, and also has an impact on hand function, allowing those with the disease to carry out routine functions much more easily’.

“The manufacturers of the drug have been supplying it free of charge on a trial basis to some patients, however the MS sufferers we met with today are concerned about what will happen when this trial ends at the end of this month. We are calling on the HSE to actively engage with the company to find a way forward. The patients simply won’t be able to afford to pay for the drug themselves for the foreseeable future.”

Deputy Doherty said: ‘I was struck by just how big a difference this new drug is making to those suffering with MS. It is not suitable for every MS patient; in fact it is only effective for about one in three of those with the disease. But for those for whom it is effective, their quality of living is vastly improved’.

“I know that the HSE has considered the inclusive of fampridine in the General Medical Scheme and Community Drugs Schemes, but it decided that the manufacturer didn’t prove that the drug provided value for money.

“However studies are ongoing which clearly demonstrate the effectiveness of the drug, and I understand that the manufacturer is going to submit a revised application, which will be reconsidered by the HSE. It is crucially important that the HSE fully considers the impact this drug is having on the lives of certain MS sufferers. I am calling on the company to make every effort to put a compelling case forward to prove that this drug is vitally important to MS patients.”

Friday, June 06, 2014

Cemeteries regulator needed to ensure the bereaved aren’t ripped off

Fine Gael Meath East TD, Regina Doherty, has today (Friday) supported the call for the establishment of a cemeteries regulator, saying it is necessary to ensure the bereaved are not paying over the odds to bury their deceased loved ones. Deputy Doherty was speaking during the Dáil debate on the Cemetery Management Bill 2013.

“Planning a funeral for a loved one can be one of the most challenging, emotionally draining and stressful occasions any of us will face. Bereaved individuals are in a vulnerable state, and I believe the law needs to be strengthened to protect their interests and make sure they are not ripped off due to a lack of competition in the management of cemeteries.

“Currently there are huge variations in the cost of a burial plots in different parts of the country. The increasing commercialisation of the funeral and burial industry has served the industry, rather than the bereaved. In some parts of Dublin, for example, the cost of opening a new grave costs in the region of €4,000, but it can be up to four times higher in other parts of the city. Why the discrepancy?
“The establishment of a cemeteries regulator will make the process fairer and more transparent.
Cemeteries will be awarded licences from the regulator with strict management obligations attached – for example, they must not engage in commercial activities other than interments at their own cemetery.

“The need for a regulator becomes all the more apparent if you consider the situation regarding the Glasnevin Trust, which controls a number of large cemeteries in Dublin. The group has charitable status but engages in commercial activities which ensure it has a monopoly over cemeteries in many parts of the city, and complete control over how much the bereaved are charged.

“Those seeking to bury their loved ones are suffering as a result of the lack of competition in the market. Under the proposed new legislation, cemetery authorities which engage in commercial activities will not be allowed to claim charitable status and the legal structure under which cemeteries operate will be modernised.

“It is my hope that this proposed legislation will make one of the most difficult times in our lives a little easier.”