Protesters force health cuts U-turn - and set sights on other cuts05/09/2012 - 18:45:39
A 24-hour picket by wheelchair-bound protesters has forced health chiefs to put in writing commitments to save their services.
As the activists called time on their protest, they followed up their victory with a list of demands to protect more people with disabilities.
A group spokesman said while they received a written pledge from the Health Service Executive (HSE) that personal assistant (PA) hours would not be cut, it would not stand for disabled people with other needs losing out.
“They’ve given us what we want, but they are robbing our neighbours to do so and sometimes our neighbours might be worse off,” said Martin Naughton.
Health Minister James Reilly was forced to row back on his plans to cut PA hours last night, which were part of wider proposals to slash health services by €130m.
This was the latest in a number of u-turns in the Government’s lifetime.
Meanwhile, the HSE said the €10m that would have been saved through the proposed cuts to PA hours will have to come from elsewhere.
The group will, therefore, meet HSE chief executive Tony O’Brien within the next 14 days to negotiate where these cuts will be made.
The protesters, made up of members from groups including the Centre of Independent Living and Disability Federation of Ireland, will present a string of demands to Mr O’Brien.
Among the demands will be a written commitment to immediately assess the needs of people currently “held captive” in acute wards and nursing homes, and a pledge to apply a policy that supports people with disabilities to stay in their homes.
About 10 protesters in wheelchairs slept rough last night in a final push for guarantees from the Government.
Mr Naughton warned that while they and the rest of the group will now go home, the fight will continue.
He said: “We are not going away, you can’t hide us. We are going to be louder if that’s what it takes.”
In December, Social Protection Minister Joan Burton was forced into a climbdown on plans to slash disability benefits for young people.
Earlier this year, Education Minister Ruairi Quinn was pressured to row back on plans to cut funding to Deis schools.
Dr Reilly had proposed cutting €10m from the service but confirmed last night it would not be touched, with savings being made elsewhere – through administrative cuts, training and travel.
The minister made no mention of reversing plans to slash home care and home help packages as part of his efforts to save €130m this year.
Earlier, Education Minister Ruairi Quinn insisted Dr Reilly’s decision to reverse the cuts was his and not the Cabinet’s.
Ministers met yesterday for the first time in six weeks to discuss the controversial health cuts, which many have speculated have caused a rift in the coalition.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny yesterday played down rumours of tension between Fine Gael and Labour, insisting “silly season” was over and that the Government had a challenging Budget ahead.
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