Unions bid to save cervical cancer vaccine programme

The country’s three biggest health service unions were tonight trying to broker a €20m cost-cutting plan to rescue the scrapped cervical cancer vaccine.

Impact, Siptu and the Irish Nurses Organisation (INO) said it hoped the proposals would allow the Government to reverse its controversial decision to postpone the programme.

Health Minister Mary Harney announced earlier this month promised free vaccinations for 12-year-old girls would not be rolled out due to the economic downturn.

But INO general secretary Liam Doran said the three unions, who represent over 90,000 health workers, were determined to salvage the vaccine plan.

“We think that surely the necessary resources to maintain this positive health initiative can be found,” he said.

“Out of a total budget of €14.8bn, this would cost around €9m to roll out.

“The health service is about maintaining good health and not just curing ill health.”

Union representatives put the proposal to Health Service Executive (HSE) management during talks over spending cuts.

A number of meetings between the two parties have been held after health bosses proposed changes to staff levels and work practices.

Mr Doran said the unions were examining every area of expenditure in an effort to make up an estimated €25m funding shortfall next year.

An Impact spokesman said the unions believed they could make the necessary savings.

“We are confident that by putting our three heads together, we can do this,” he said.

“There are disagreements about how much the programme would cost but it’s between €10m and €20m.

“Although this is a significant amount of taxpayers’ money, we think the savings are do-able with a bit of goodwill from all parties.”

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