'Last July, nearly 600,000 people were on waiting lists. This crisis is only getting worse' - Howlin
Labour leader Brendan Howlin has warned of the possibility of a massive crisis in the health services next year.
"We know the Government intends to spend little on investing in current spending next year. They have tried to change the focus to capital spending instead.
"With a pay deal to fund, competing demands from social protection and unaffordable tax cuts, the crisis in the health service is no longer being talked about as a priority.
"We know that our health services have been kept going in the last two years by additional spending of over €500m. Despite this, waiting lists are at record levels.
"Fine Gael have held the portfolio now for nearly seven years.
"However, on the basis of what we know at this stage, that money will not be available next year.
"There is a pattern here. When the Taoiseach was in health, money was found. When he was in Social Protection, money was found for welfare increases.
"Now, as leader of Fine Gael and Taoiseach, he is back talking about tax cuts.
"My suggestion is clear. We know the fiscal space is greater next year. Suspend the tax cuts until then. The €220m the Government plans to commit to a small tax cut would make a real difference in health.
"Ensure our health service is sufficiently funded to get us through the winter to avoid another A&E trolley crisis in January, and start to make a dent on waiting lists.
"In July we saw that nearly 600,000 people were on waiting lists. The crisis is only getting worse.
"There are also ongoing pressures on the Fair Deal scheme, and ensuring that there are enough home care packages.
"Not enough acute hospital beds are being built to respond to demographic pressures as our population ages.
"The Government appears to have abandoned any long term-plans to implement the Future of Healthcare Report. No implementation office has been set up since it was published."