THE introduction of legislation aimed at abolishing adult public in-patient charges in public hospitals from next month has been welcomed in Cork.
Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly introduced the Health (Amendment) Bill 2023 in the Dáil this week.
The Bill was published on Friday, March 10, and will, when enacted, remove the acute public in-patient charge of €80 per day, up to a maximum of €800 in a year, including day-case charges, for people accessing care as a public patient in all public hospitals.
This is the next step in the removal of charges for all, with charges for children under-16 abolished in 2022.
Welcoming the introduction of this legislation, Sinn Féin TD for Cork North Central Thomas Gould said we are “travelling in the right direction” to building truly public hospitals.
“Sinn Féin will support the abolition of charges. We have long argued for the abolition of charges because we believe fundamentally in a public health service and that public health services should be free at the point of delivery and delivered on the basis of need.
“We are travelling in the right direction and the new public-only contract for consultants in hospitals is another step forward to building truly public hospitals where we can separate private from public healthcare.
“This is something we all supported when we passed Sláintecare. We believe that parking charges must also be removed as another barrier to healthcare for vulnerable patients,” he said.
Deputy Gould said, however, that the big challenge in hospitals and in healthcare at the moment is access to care, overcrowding, and long waiting lists.
“While people will obviously welcome and will want to see these charges abolished, the critical issue at the moment for people right now is people being on trolleys, people waiting far too long waiting lists, and a staff who are facing morale injury every day from working in a healthcare system that is at breaking point.
“Those staff deserve tremendous credit for the work they do and I am the first to acknowledge much of the good work which is happening in healthcare right across all of the strands of it from primary care, community care to acute care but it has many challenges. Part of that challenge is the lack of capacity, the high demand for care, particularly in emergency departments, which is not a winter problem anymore, but is all year around. We have a lot more to do,” he said.
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