Health (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2004: Committee and Remaining Stages.

Thursday, 16 December 2004

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 595 No. 4

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An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Amendment No. 1 in the names of Deputies McManus and Gormley is out of order as it involves a potential charge on Revenue.

Amendment No. 1 not moved.

Mr. Perry: Information on John Perry  Zoom on John Perry  I move amendment No. 2:

First, I seek a clarification on an invalid document. The Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, Deputy Seán Power, said the former Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Martin, was not in attendance at the meeting. May we have a statement on that with regard to the letter circulated this morning? It is surprising it had to be corrected so quickly.

With regard to the amendments being ruled out of order, I am disappointed the new section——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  I prefer to deal with the amendments seriatim.

Mr. Perry: Information on John Perry  Zoom on John Perry  We will not have time. They are very much linked. Section 1 is linked to——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  The one we are dealing with now is in order.

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. S. Power): Information on Seán Power  Zoom on Seán Power  On a point of order, I have been misquoted. I did not say the former Minister was not in attendance. I said he was not in attendance when that issue was being discussed.

Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  It was on the agenda. That is rubbish.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  That does not arise on this amendment. Deputy Perry to continue on amendment No. 2.

Mr. S. Power: Information on Seán Power  Zoom on Seán Power  I would like to have the matter clarified.

Mr. Perry: Information on John Perry  Zoom on John Perry  I am disappointed with regard to the language in this Bill. There is no additional cost associated with the two amendments I put down. I suggest that within three months of the passing of the Act, the Minister for Health and Children should lay a report before the Dáil with regard to [984]a database of patients. I am astonished that the Tánaiste would not incorporate that. It should not be outside the scope of the Bill. The provision for the contract with the next of kin should also be included. Can she give a commitment that these two critical amendments will be accepted? In State health institutions there is no database of any patient account and next of kin is not identified. There is mayhem in the system.

The language of the Bill is intemperate. In section 1 it would be easy to insert the words “shall not be” with regard to the charge. It would mean no ambiguity. However, as we speak , there is no database of patient accounts. There should be an account in every patient’s name where debits and credits could be clearly identified as well as the reason for deductions.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  I am not sure to what amendment the Deputy is speaking. We are dealing with amendment No. 2.

Mr. Perry: Information on John Perry  Zoom on John Perry  These amendments are related. I would like the Tánaiste to comment on the intemperate language and on page 3, line 18, after “charge” to insert “shall not be”. This is critically important. Equally important — I am speaking when I get the opportunity — is a patient database and my amendment on the next of kin.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  The Deputy is on amendment No. 3. We are still on amendment No. 2.

Ms McManus: Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  This amendment has been tabled to try to put a short life on this Bill. There is much unease and concern about how this Bill is being processed through the House without proper scrutiny. That is probably what prompted this amendment.

While I have the opportunity, I object strenuously to the fact that amendment No. 1 has been ruled out of order on the basis it would likely result in a charge to the State. However, if this amendment is not adopted, I suspect there will be a much bigger charge to the State because many lawyers will get fat as a result of this Bill and many hours will be spent in the courts challenging aspects of it.

Reference was made to another issue and Deputy Seán Power has raised a new one. We have received the minutes of a significant meeting where this issue was debated and discussed by all the key players in the health service, Ministers, Department officials and CEOs. They were all there in one room. The senior Minister may have been out of the room at the time but the Minister of State, Deputy Tim O’Malley, was there. This is new and crucial information because it clearly signifies that the matter was discussed and that the Department and the Minister had knowledge at that time. I am happy to accept that the Minister of State, Deputy Seán Power, is giving us a message. I have no quibble with him.

[985]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  I would prefer if the Deputy did not develop that line. A passing reference is in order as the Minister referred to it. We are debating amendment No. 2.

Ms McManus: Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  I accept that.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  A number of Members are offering.

Ms McManus: Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  I accept that but I have one last point to make which——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  They are entitled to have an opportunity to speak on the amendment.

Ms McManus: Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  ——I think is of concern to the Ceann Comhairle as well.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  The Chair is concerned that we stay within Standing Orders.

Ms McManus: Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  I would have finished by now if I had been allowed to finish my last point.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Under Standing Orders we are debating amendment No. 2.

Ms McManus: Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  The Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Martin, who was previously Minister for Health and Children should make a full statement to the House. We do not want messengers coming here.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  That does not arise on this amendment.

Ms McManus: Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  It does arise and it is important that it is dealt with. To protect the interests of this House and its Members, will the Ceann Comhairle ensure——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  The Chair has no role in getting involved in a political debate. He has to stay out of it.

Ms McManus: Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  ——that the Minister, Deputy Martin, who is clearly central to the issue, is asked to make a full statement to the House so we can get to the bottom of it?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  The Deputy is taking up the time of other Members who wish to speak on the amendment before the House.

Mr. Gormley: Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  I support the amendment, which can be regarded as a sunset clause. We want this hastily conceived legislation to cease next year. This makes sense as the way in which it has been rushed through is very bad for the reputation of the House and makes for bad legislation. We are simply trying to patch up mistakes that have been made in the past.

The Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children was not here for my contribution on Second Stage. It appears that, despite her earlier denials, [986]the introduction of medical cards for over-70s was certainly a catalyst for this debacle. She may well claim that it dates back to 1976. Professor Niamh Brennan who came before the Joint Committee on Health and Children, in addition to economists whom the Tánaiste would admire greatly, including Seán Barrett, said this was an ill-conceived step, that it would be ill-advised to go ahead with it and that it really amounted to a vote-catching exercise.

We should examine the legislation in greater detail. Repercussions will arise from the legislation, which I hope will not be as bad as I think it could be. The Minister is riding roughshod over the old and vulnerable. They are being given a pat on the head and €2,000. The Minister is wishing them a happy Christmas and telling them to be on their way, which is no way to do things.

More than that, the legislation is conceiving a new way of dealing with long-stay patients. It is not just dealing with the past, it is setting up a new way of dealing with the matter in future. I find this approach reprehensible, but it is in keeping with the right wing philosophy of this Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrats Administration. It is saying to the elderly that they have served the country but now they must pay for the treatment they deserve and have earned.

Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  I will not delay the House too much in the short time we have. The Fine Gael Party has tabled a total of 12 of the 14 amendments that have to be taken in 15 minutes. In response to the intervention of the Minister of State, Deputy Seán Power, who said the Minister left a meeting and there was no Minister——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  I have already ruled Deputy McManus out of order.

Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  I will not have time to speak again on the matter.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  I understand that but the Chair is obliged to insist the Deputy speaks on the amendment.

Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  It was said that the Minister left the meeting and he was unaware of what was on the agenda. He left the meeting, came back to it and did not get the minutes of it.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  That does not arise. I call Deputy Ó Caoláin.

Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  In pleading ignorance of what happened, he is trying to fool us further.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  The Deputy has made his point. That does not arise.

Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  We do not believe it. It is a matter of ministerial incompetence that the Minister sat on a major issue for almost 12 months.

[987]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  The Deputy should not labour the point, in fairness to Deputies who wish to speak on this amendment. We are debating amendment No. 2 in the name of Deputy Twomey.

Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  I will finish on this point. It reminds me of the former Minister, now Senator O’Rourke, telling us that she was in the bath when something else happened. The former Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Martin, was possibly washing his hands or was in the toilet when this matter was discussed.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  We are long past Second Stage.

Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  We all hear a great many fairy tales at Christmas time but this is one we do not believe. This was gross incompetence and the Minister, Deputy Martin, should make a statement to the House.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Deputy Allen should allow Deputy Ó Caoláin to speak.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  I support the amendment, which has been described as a sunset clause. The purpose of the amendment is that the Act would cease to have effect as of 1 March 2005. There would be some merit in considering the amendment as it would allow an opportunity to properly explore and review all the elements that are swirling around the core issue at the heart of the Bill. Without question, there are serious matters to be addressed.

Clearly, the legislation as presented is not a definitive response. It is flawed in many respects. The Minister did not respond to questions posed in the course of Second Stage. By adopting amendment No. 2, the Minister would afford not only an opportunity to herself but to the Department and the health boards, which without question will face a vista of legal challenge. Adopting the amendment would allow for time to properly [988]explore and prepare alternative legislation to deal with the matter in a substantive and caring way.

As I stated on Second Stage, we have a responsibility, and the Government in particular has a responsibility, to ensure that the vulnerable are always treated fairly and always have their rights upheld. The legislation seeks to take away a fundamental right of legal recourse where illegal charges have been applied to a significant number of citizens heretofore, some of whom will pass on in the near future.

We posed several questions in the course of Second Stage to which there has been no response. We have not been given the necessary clarification to inform a broad debate on this matter. I urge the Minister to accept that this proposition is fundamentally flawed. Amendment No. 2 offers a way to overcome the immediate difficulty and places responsibility on the Minister and her Department to come back with all the information and properly drafted legislation.

Mr. Neville: Information on Dan Neville  Zoom on Dan Neville  I support the amendment. The Minister has the numbers to push the legislation through but she must accept it is rushed and there should be a mechanism to completely review the situation. I do not wish to repeat what I said on Second Stage about my concerns in regard to the area of treatment of the elderly which could be evaluated, examined and legislated for in the context of what is happening here. The amendment would allow for comprehensive legislation to be drawn up following a proper debate.

It is strange that the Minister did not read the minutes of that meeting 12 months ago.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  As it is now 3.30 p.m., in accordance with the Order of the House today, I must put the following question: “That in respect of each of the sections undisposed of, the section is hereby agreed to in Committee, the Title is hereby agreed to in Committee, the Bill is, accordingly, reported to the House without amendment, that Fourth Stage is hereby completed and the Bill is hereby passed.”

Question put.

[987]The Dáil divided: Tá, 65; Níl, 53.

Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  Ahern, Noel. Information on Barry Andrews  Zoom on Barry Andrews  Andrews, Barry.
Information on Seán Ardagh  Zoom on Seán Ardagh  Ardagh, Seán. Information on Niall Blaney  Zoom on Niall Blaney  Blaney, Niall.
Information on Johnny Brady  Zoom on Johnny Brady  Brady, Johnny. Information on Martin Brady  Zoom on Martin Brady  Brady, Martin.
Information on Joe Callanan  Zoom on Joe Callanan  Callanan, Joe. Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor Callely  Callely, Ivor.
Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  Carey, Pat. Information on John Carty  Zoom on John Carty  Carty, John.
Information on Donie Cassidy  Zoom on Donie Cassidy  Cassidy, Donie. Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  Cowen, Brian.
Information on John Cregan  Zoom on John Cregan  Cregan, John. Information on John Curran  Zoom on John Curran  Curran, John.
Information on Noel Davern  Zoom on Noel Davern  Davern, Noel. Information on Tony Dempsey  Zoom on Tony Dempsey  Dempsey, Tony.
Information on John Dennehy  Zoom on John Dennehy  Dennehy, John. Information on Jimmy Devins  Zoom on Jimmy Devins  Devins, Jimmy.
Information on John Ellis  Zoom on John Ellis  Ellis, John. Information on Michael Finneran  Zoom on Michael Finneran  Finneran, Michael.
Information on Dermot Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Dermot Fitzpatrick  Fitzpatrick, Dermot. Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  Fleming, Seán.
Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher  Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher  Gallagher, Pat The Cope. Information on Jim Glennon  Zoom on Jim Glennon  Glennon, Jim.
Information on Noel Grealish  Zoom on Noel Grealish  Grealish, Noel. Information on Mary Hanafin  Zoom on Mary Hanafin  Hanafin, Mary.
Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  Harney, Mary. Information on Seán Haughey  Zoom on Seán Haughey  Haughey, Seán.
Information on Máire Hoctor  Zoom on Máire Hoctor  Hoctor, Máire. Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  Jacob, Joe.
Information on Cecilia Keaveney  Zoom on Cecilia Keaveney  Keaveney, Cecilia. Information on Billy Kelleher  Zoom on Billy Kelleher  Kelleher, Billy.
Information on Peter Kelly  Zoom on Peter Kelly  Kelly, Peter. Information on Tony Killeen  Zoom on Tony Killeen  Killeen, Tony.
Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  Kirk, Seamus. Information on Tom Kitt  Zoom on Tom Kitt  Kitt, Tom.
Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  [989]Lenihan, Brian. Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin  McDowell, Michael.
Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  McEllistrim, Thomas. Information on Tom McEllistrim  Zoom on Tom McEllistrim  McGuinness, John.
Information on John McGuinness  Zoom on John McGuinness  Martin, Micheál. Information on John Moloney  Zoom on John Moloney  Moloney, John.
Information on Michael Moynihan  Zoom on Michael Moynihan  Moynihan, Michael. Information on Michael Mulcahy  Zoom on Michael Mulcahy  Mulcahy, Michael.
Information on M. J. Nolan  Zoom on M. J. Nolan  Nolan, M.J. Information on Éamon Ó Cuív  Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív  Ó Cuív, Éamon.
Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl  Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl  Ó Fearghail, Seán. Information on Charlie O'Connor  Zoom on Charlie O'Connor  O’Connor, Charlie.
Information on Liz O'Donnell  Zoom on Liz O'Donnell  O’Donnell, Liz. Information on Dennis O'Donovan  Zoom on Dennis O'Donovan  O’Donovan, Denis.
Information on Noel O'Flynn  Zoom on Noel O'Flynn  O’Flynn, Noel. Information on Batt O'Keeffe  Zoom on Batt O'Keeffe  O’Keeffe, Batt.
Information on Ned O'Keeffe  Zoom on Ned O'Keeffe  O’Keeffe, Ned. Information on Fiona O'Malley  Zoom on Fiona O'Malley  O’Malley, Fiona.
Information on Tom Parlon  Zoom on Tom Parlon  Parlon, Tom. Information on Peter Power  Zoom on Peter Power  Power, Peter.
Information on Seán Power  Zoom on Seán Power  Power, Seán. Information on Mae Sexton  Zoom on Mae Sexton  Sexton, Mae.
Information on Brendan Smith  Zoom on Brendan Smith  Smith, Brendan. Information on Michael Smith  Zoom on Michael Smith  Smith, Michael.
Information on Mary Wallace  Zoom on Mary Wallace  Wallace, Mary. Information on Joe Walsh  Zoom on Joe Walsh  Walsh, Joe.
Information on Ollie Wilkinson  Zoom on Ollie Wilkinson  Wilkinson, Ollie. Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  Woods, Michael.
Information on G. V. Wright  Zoom on G. V. Wright  Wright, G.V.  


[989]Níl
Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  Allen, Bernard. Information on Dan Boyle  Zoom on Dan Boyle  Boyle, Dan.
Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  Broughan, Thomas P. Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  Bruton, Richard.
Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  Burton, Joan. Information on Joe Costello  Zoom on Joe Costello  Costello, Joe.
Information on Simon Coveney  Zoom on Simon Coveney  Coveney, Simon. Information on Jerry Cowley  Zoom on Jerry Cowley  Cowley, Jerry.
Information on Sean Crowe  Zoom on Sean Crowe  Crowe, Seán. Information on Ciaran Cuffe  Zoom on Ciaran Cuffe  Cuffe, Ciarán.
Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  Deenihan, Jimmy. Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  Durkan, Bernard J.
Information on Olwyn Enright  Zoom on Olwyn Enright  Enright, Olwyn. Information on Martin Ferris  Zoom on Martin Ferris  Ferris, Martin.
Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  Gilmore, Eamon. Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  Gormley, John.
Information on Tony Gregory  Zoom on Tony Gregory  Gregory, Tony. Information on Tom Hayes  Zoom on Tom Hayes  Hayes, Tom.
Information on Seamus Healy  Zoom on Seamus Healy  Healy, Seamus. Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  Higgins, Joe.
Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  Higgins, Michael D. Information on Philip Hogan  Zoom on Philip Hogan  Hogan, Phil.
Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Howlin, Brendan. Information on Paul Kehoe  Zoom on Paul Kehoe  Kehoe, Paul.
Information on Kathleen Lynch  Zoom on Kathleen Lynch  Lynch, Kathleen. Information on Pádraic McCormack  Zoom on Pádraic McCormack  McCormack, Padraic.
Information on Finian McGrath  Zoom on Finian McGrath  McGrath, Finian. Information on Paddy McHugh  Zoom on Paddy McHugh  McHugh, Paddy.
Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  McManus, Liz. Information on Olivia Mitchell  Zoom on Olivia Mitchell  Mitchell, Olivia.
Information on Breeda Moynihan-Cronin  Zoom on Breeda Moynihan-Cronin  Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda. Information on Gerard Murphy  Zoom on Gerard Murphy  Murphy, Gerard.
Information on Denis Naughten  Zoom on Denis Naughten  Naughten, Denis. Information on Dan Neville  Zoom on Dan Neville  Neville, Dan.
Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín. Information on Aengus O Snodaigh  Zoom on Aengus O Snodaigh  Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
Information on Fergus O'Dowd  Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd  O’Dowd, Fergus. Information on Brian O'Shea  Zoom on Brian O'Shea  O’Shea, Brian.
Information on Jan O'Sullivan  Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  O’Sullivan, Jan. Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Pattison, Seamus.
Information on Willie Penrose  Zoom on Willie Penrose  Penrose, Willie. Information on John Perry  Zoom on John Perry  Perry, John.
Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Quinn, Ruairi. Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring  Ring, Michael.
Information on Seán Ryan  Zoom on Seán Ryan  Ryan, Seán. Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor Sargent  Sargent, Trevor.
Information on Joe Sherlock  Zoom on Joe Sherlock  Sherlock, Joe. Information on Róisín Shortall  Zoom on Róisín Shortall  Shortall, Róisín.
Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  Stagg, Emmet. Information on David Stanton  Zoom on David Stanton  Stanton, David.
Information on Liam Twomey  Zoom on Liam Twomey  Twomey, Liam. Information on Mary Upton  Zoom on Mary Upton  Upton, Mary.
Information on Jack Wall  Zoom on Jack Wall  Wall, Jack.  

[989]Tellers: Tá, Deputies Kitt and Kelleher; Níl, Deputies Kehoe and Stagg.

[989]Question declared carried.


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