Rise TD Paul Murphy
Rise TD Paul Murphy asked Taoiseach Leo Varadkar if a newspaper report today – stating that the estimated monthly cost of the State’s leasing of private hospitals will be €115million – a month is accurate.
Mr Varadkar replied:
“That’s deputy, that’s an estimate. So it’s as accurate as any estimate can be. If that answers your question, it may be right, it may be wrong but it’s an accurate estimate. It’s not necessarily what the accurate cost will be because we won’t know that until the end ’cause the costs, they’ll have to be calculated.
“But the agreement that was made between the HSE and the Private Hospital Association was told that this would be done on the basis, on a not-for-profit basis, so it’s the covering of the costs of the hospitals.”
Independent TD Catherine Connolly
Independent TD Catherine Connolly told Taoiseach Leo Varadkar:
“I gave my support to draconian legislation where absolutely no attempt was made to contextualise such legislation within a human rights perspective or to frame, indeed, the operation of the powers given to Garda and undefined medical officers so that such powers would be time-limited and used in a proportionate and undiscriminatory way.
“I was full aware of the implications of such legislation and I gave my support reluctantly, on the basis of a number of issues. One, we improve the legislation as best we could. Two, we made it time-based. Three, we insisted that it would come back before the Dáil.
“But the most important one on which I gave my consent was that we would have full and frank disclosure, full information on every issue from you and the Government. And I have to say, significantly, and unacceptably, that part of the bargain has not been kept.
“I look at testing. I look at the information on that, totally contradictory and I know, as we all do, of people waiting for tests. Four weeks on Saturday, in relation to the one that I’m mentioning.
“In relation to the operation of laboratories, whether they’re functioning or not functioning.
“On the first of April we were told that it was sufficient to meet the demand. Perhaps the first of April is an indication of how we should take that piece of information.
“In relation to nursing homes, I’m absolutely appalled that they weren’t number one on the list with a risk assessment carried out.
“On the 30th of January, the public health emergency was recognised. On the 11th of February, it was given a name: the coronavirus. On the 11th of March, a pandemic was declared by the World Health Organisation. And I haven’t heard one simple explanation from ye, as to why the nursing homes, direct provision centres and residential centres weren’t number one on the list, where our most vulnerable people live.
“Why an assessment wasn’t carried out. I have looked through all of the briefing documents prior to coming in here, I have eight from the month of April. Of all those briefing documents, we’ve two lines on nursing homes, to tell us there would be screening introduced, never was it mentioned again.”
People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett
People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett put to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar:
“How do Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael believe that they are fitted to return to power or that we should believe their promises of a new political departure when, after the last financial crisis of 2008 they made the same promises and then proceeded to absolutely savage the staffing levels and capacity levels of our health service prior to this public health emergency.
“To the point where we have some of the lowest levels of ICU capacity, GP cover and staffing levels, hospital bed numbers in the whole of the Western world.
“Isn’t it the case, Taoiseach, that the privatisation and austerity policies that were pursued for the last ten years by these parties have contributed to the emergency that is now emerging, tragic emergency that’s emerging in our nursing homes because of a largely privatised, completely fragmented, under-resourced, under-supported nursing home sector.
“Isn’t it, Taoiseach, unacceptable but a legacy of the policies and priorities of those two parties. That 600 private consultants can hold this country over a barrel in the face of a public health emergency. It is absolutely shocking.
“Can you please explain to me the incredible situation where this country has one of the biggest pharmaceutical and medical equipment industries in the world and yet we are suffering chronic shortages of Personal Protection Equipment, vital medical equipment and chemical reagents necessary to bring the level of testing up to that which we need to exit this crisis.
“And where [HSE CEO] Paul Reid cites proprietorial issues as an explanation for this. In layman’s terms, that means private patents and profit seeking by the companies that own these patents for chemical reagents.
“Can the Taoiseach explain why a private consultant, with no medical expertise whatsoever, was given the job of recruiting from the 70,000 heroic volunteers on the Call for Ireland, to recruit those people and integrate them into the health service.
“A job, from when I look at the numbers, doesn’t look to be going too well in that integration, CPL, CPL.
“Can the minister explain the extraordinary appointment of a management consultant from an accountancy firm, Ernst & Young, to spearhead the ramping up of the testing and contact-tracing regime which we desperately need rather than public health experts, scientists and medics and that that same person has now been given the job to spearhead the transition back to, quote, ‘business as usual’.
“Rather than the public health experts, the scientists and the doctors, who should be deciding when we lift restrictions, how we lift restrictions, how we transition back to the normality that our citizens desperately want to return to…”
Labour leader Alan Kelly in the Dáil this afternoon
This afternoon, Labour leader Alan Kelly asked Taoiseach Leo Varadkar:
“Today, Taoiseach, we, in the Labour Party are proposing to you and to the rest of this House that we would pay all of our healthcare workers a one-off €1,000 solidarity gesture on May 1 [International Workers’ Day] in these unique circumstances when we know that all these workers are going way beyond anything they’ve ever done before or anything they’ll ever, ever do again.”
From top: Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Josepha Madigan and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar; Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin in the Dáil this afternoon
The Dáil, with reduced numbers, got under way with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Minister for Health Simon Harris, and Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe scheduled to answer questions concerning the State’s response to Covid-19.
During his opening comments, Mr Varadkar said he doesn’t know if the current movement restrictions will be relaxed on May 5, saying they would need to be relaxed over several months.
“I don’t know yet if we’ll be able to relax restrictions on the 5th of May. But I do know that if we can, at all, it’s going to be gradual and will happen over a number of months. As we know from Asia, they may even need to be reimposed again because only a scientific breakthrough, a vaccine or an effective anti-viral medicine will truly allow life to got back to being as it was.
“Other breakthroughs, like a reliable anti-body test, could really help though. And I am optimistic about the capacity of the brilliant minds in our international pharmaceutical companies and universities to deliver.”
During his initial contribution, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin told the Dáil:
“Unfortunately, I have to report to the House that I know of at least one case where relatives of a person in a nursing home has been informed that the nursing home has been told by the Department that it should not give out information about the number of cases in the home.”
The proceedings can be watched above or here.
The last time the Dáil sat, on April 3, Fine Gael TD and Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Josepha Madigan refused to answer a single question that TDs raised about health matters concerning Covid-19, after castigating the TDs who called for the Dáil to sit.
Among the contributions from TDs was that of Fianna Fáil Stephen Donnelly who told the Dáil that he was told that out of 200 members of staff at one nursing home, 70 had tested positive for Covid-19 and that 19 of the home’s 100 residents had also tested positive.
Ms Madigan told the Dáil:
“I thank the deputies for their contributions. However, the members here today who have insisted on this Dáil sitting have shown a complete disregard for our national fight to contain Covid-19. Shame on you.”
More to follow.
Earlier: ‘A Growing Sense Of Public Unease’
Previously: A Refusal To Hold Themselves Accountable [Updated]