April 28, 2014 § Leave a comment
It was great to attend the official opening of a new all-weather pitch in Marlay Park , on Wednesday last, alongside the manager of the Republic of Ireland national soccer team, Martin O’Neill and local colleagues Cllr. Lettie McCarthy and Cathaoirleach Carrie Smyth.
I was delighted to attend the official opening of the new all-weather pitch at Marlay Park. This is a great resource for our local community.
I was very impressed by the facilities on show here which are already being used by South Dublin soccer clubs including Mount Merrion Youths, Mount Merrion Seniors, Broadford Rovers Seniors, Stedfast Utd., Spartak Dynamo, Dundrum Football Club and Granada Football Club.
The pitch also has the capacity to be used as a Gaelic Football pitch and will provide a boost for local clubs, especially during the long winter months, when many grass pitches are unplayable.
This wonderful new pitch will be managed by Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown Leisure Services, who already successfully operate a full-size pitch in Stepaside and two smaller pitches in Meadowbrook.
This amenity will bring great health benefits to our area, offering children and adults alike a fantastic outlet through which to not only practice and develop their skills, but also to improve their well-being.
As Minister of State at the Department of Health, I’m a keen advocate of the ‘Healthy Ireland’ national framework to improve the health of our country over the coming generation, along with programmes such as the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown Sports Partnership. I hope that the provision of this new pitch will encourage people to become more active and to lead a healthier lifestyle.
April 28, 2014 § Leave a comment
We have come a long way since the defeat of Dr Noel Bowne’s Mother and Child Scheme in 1951. Our health services are immeasurably better than they were in the past despite enormous pressures, especially since the economic collapse of 2008.
But money still talks when it comes to access to healthcare in Ireland, with consequences that are graver in primary care than in any other sector.
There is extensive evidence that GP fees are a barrier to accessing healthcare. It is a sad truth that some parents who are not eligible for a medical card are simply unable to pay the fee needed for their sick child to be seen by a GP.
It is also the case that fees are a proven barrier for GP attendance, even for those of us who are relatively better-off. People risk postponing a doctor’s visit even when they may feel something is wrong. And they are even less likely to attend for a periodic check-up, which would make sense for all of us.
Ireland is the only EU health system that does not offer universal coverage for primary care. If we are serious about shifting resources and attention to this sector – as I believe we must – then we will have to start by removing the barrier of fees for GP attendance. A decision whether to see a doctor should never be a commercial or financial dilemma – for any citizen.
When we talk about “free GP care” we mean a system of universal access without fees at the point of use. This will be the bedrock of our primary care system from which enormous advantages will flow. It will allow for early diagnosis and treatment, relieving pressure on the (vastly more expensive) acute services. It will mean that we can manage and plan healthcare delivery on a population-wide basis where every citizen is registered with a GP practice.
Most importantly of all, it is only with a well-functioning primary care system that we can have any chance of addressing and managing chronic illnesses – by far the biggest challenge facing modern healthcare systems.
This week the government published the Health (General Practitioners Service) Bill 2014, proposing the extension of free access to GP services to some 240,000 children across the country who are aged five or under (“the under 6s”). We have provided funding of €37 million to meet the cost of this project. And it’s worth stressing that this is extra funding; it is not in any way derived from savings made up elsewhere in the health service, whether in the medical card system or otherwise.
Some have asked why we have chosen to extend free GP care in the first instance to children aged under six. The answer is that this is the first step in a population-wide project, and young children are a health priority group. Access to GP services will increase the likelihood of childhood conditions being identified earlier and being addressed. As the IMO Position Paper on Child Health 2012 notes, ensuring that children have the healthiest start in life provides the basis for good health in adulthood.
I think there is a general welcome for the under 6s initiative – especially, and understandably, from young families. But it is true that the practical implementation of the plan has attracted opposition from doctors. Over recent months, GPs have organised and communicated their concerns vocally. I have met many doctors across the country, and listened attentively to their views, and I was pleased to attend yesterday’s GP meeting at the IMO Annual Conference.
I am keen to address, and to respond as best I can to the concerns that have been raised. But I have refrained from engaging in public spats or confrontation. I want to work with GPs to create a suitable, acceptable and pragmatic new contract – initially for the provision of free GP care for children, and ultimately for the universal system that we want to implement.
But we can only do this together. The constraints posed by competition law may not be ideal, but they should not be over-played. I am prepared to negotiate on all aspects of the scope and content of the contract. It is only the actual setting of fees that must remain ultimately a matter for the Minister. But here too there can be real input from the GP bodies, as is clear from the Bill now published.
Pending the commencement of engagement with GPs representatives, we have been looking closely at the almost 300 submissions received as part of the public consultation process on the draft contract. In their written submission the IMO set out their concerns in respect of the draft contract and I earnestly wish to address these concerns directly with them.
The draft contract – and I emphasise that it is a draft – is the opening position of the Department of Health and the HSE. It is amenable to change, even radical change, on foot of our proposed engagement with the doctors.
I have invited the GPs’ representatives to meet with me, and to engage in discussion and negotiation. I extended that invitation again at yesterday’s conference.
I have also heard the fears of GPs that their surgeries will be overburdened with additional visits from children. The projections available to me do not support such fears, however genuinely held. This is an aspect that we can usefully explore in our negotiations, when we can exchange research and seek to reach agreement. And we can also look at ways to monitor the new scheme once it is established.
It seems to me that the public wants the Government and GP bodies to come together, to resolve our differences and find a workable solution. I’m not saying this process will be easy – change never is. But by doing so, we can implement an historic and progressive health policy for the benefit of our children, and ultimately for the health and wellbeing of our entire society.
How better to cherish all of the children of the nation equally?
This article by Alex White TD, Minister of State at the Dept. of Health and Labour TD for Dublin South first appeared in the Sunday Business Post on Sunday April 27th 2014.
April 17, 2014 § Leave a comment
I warmly welcome the awarding of €206,900 by the Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn to seven primary schools in Dublin South. This will enable the schools to establish book rental schemes.
The schools that will receive funding to start new book rental schemes include St. Mary’s National School in Lamb’s Cross, Ballyroan Boy’s National School, Scoil San Treasa in Mount Merrion, Kilternan National School, St Attracta’s Senior National School in Dundrum, St. Michael’s House in Leopardstown and the Islamic National School in Clonskeagh. 2,069 pupils in Dublin South will benefit from more affordable school books as a result of this funding.
Already, a number of schools in Dublin South have successful book rental schemes for their pupils. I’m very much aware of the efforts and endeavours of schools who have already set up successful book rental schemes in advance of this scheme. It’s great to see that €8.3 million will be divided amongst such schools nationally to assist in the costs of their existing book rental schemes.
The Labour Party is committed to tackling high school costs for parents and investing in book rental schemes is an example of that.
April 16, 2014 § Leave a comment
Alex White T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Health has welcomed Government approval today of the text of the Health (General Practitioners Service) Bill 2014 and the Cabinet’s agreement that the Bill should be published and introduced to the Oireachtas.
“I welcome today’s decision by the Government which will see free GP services extended to all children aged under six by mid-2014, as the first phase in the introduction of free GP care for the full population.
“240,000 children across Ireland will benefit from this innovative public health policy. The Government has provided new, additional funding of €37 million to meet the cost of this measure.
“This is really good news for young families and it represents a significant milestone in the reform of our health services.”
The Minister has also confirmed that he is again contacting the IMO today with a new proposal for initiating talks and looks forward to hearing their response.
April 10, 2014 § Leave a comment
I was delighted to attend the official re-opening of Airfield farm after three years of extensive refurbishment and development.
Airfield farm is a wonderful amenity for the people of Dublin South, particularly children, as it offers a recreational and educational example of a working farm in the heart of urban life.
Airfield farm hopes to welcome thousands of pre-school, primary and secondary school students from across Dublin South and beyond for active, hands-on learning activities that celebrate food, farming and the natural world.
This will give many children their first encounter with farming and allows them to enjoy a beautiful and relaxed outdoor environment, away from the classroom.
Airfield farm includes a milking parlour, dairy, ornamental gardens, 3 acre food display gardens and food production tunnels that supply the kitchens of the brand new Overends café.
It’s wonderful that Airfield’s doors have re-opened to the public as the Summer months approach and I encourage everyone to avail of this exceptional public space.
I was particularly interested to see the archives of the Overend sisters being so creatively brought to life. It’s fascinating to learn what life was like for the Overend sisters. They were incredible women who travelled the world, won rally driving competitions around Ireland and helped the returning soldiers of World War One.
The Overend sisters committed much of their energy to the garden and working farm. They established Airfield’s not-for- profit charitable trust in the mid-1970s and generously bequeathed the estate to the people of Ireland.”
April 7, 2014 § Leave a comment
I welcome the €211,000 funding awarded to Dun Laoghaire Rathdown Council and the €123,000 awarded to South Dublin County Council as part of the Built Heritage Jobs Leverage Scheme 2014.
As a result of this funding a total of eleven projects across Dublin South will receive monies resulting in the conservation and restoration of protected building and historic structures in our locality. This funding will also generate and support significant employment in the conservation and construction industries and in specialist trades.
The following buildings will have roof repair work done: Enderley House, Mount Salem, St Thomas’s Estate, Tibradden House, the Roman Arch and the Whitechurch Cottages. Both the Rockbrook School and Mill will undergo masonry repair work.
I’m delighted that this Government is investing in our local community’s architectural heritage. These buildings offer a window into our collective past and their maintenance requires significant work and investment.