Emergency legislation debated in the Dáil described as 'Sláintecare on speed'

Emergency legislation debated in the Dáil described as 'Sláintecare  on speed'
Minister Charlie Flanagan, standing in for Minister Simon Harris today, said that the new legislation would 'remove the legal barriers for those wishing to return to the Irish health service'

The Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Covid-19) Bill 2020 introduces special measures to aid the fight against Covid-19.

The new laws will see a raft of new measures that will transform Ireland's health service temporarily, including the state taking over private hospitals, and the treating of both private and public patients for free.

Roisin Shorthall, the TD behind the Sláintecare plan for the health service, said she was told by HSE staff that: "Moving away from private care in the matter of a week is something officials say they couldn't have done in a year."

Charlie Flanagan, taking the place of Health Minister Simon Harris in the chamber, told TDs that the new legislation would remove the legal barriers for those wishing to return to the Irish health service.

He added that currently the "process is lengthy" to re-register, and this law would allow for a simpler registration process and would waive any fees usually associated with registering.

It will also allow returnees who wish to return permanently, to apply for full registration after their temporary registration ends.

Although the new hassle free process was roundly welcomed by all TDs, many voiced their disappointment that those who have never worked in Ireland before cannot access the same process, even in circumstances where there is a mutual recognition of qualifications, such as in the UK's NHS.

The government argue the risks are too high to circumvent the registration process.

One of the main areas of opposition was in relation to pay for student nurses, which was raised repeatedly by almost all opposition parties.

Amendments were tabled for a wage subsidy for student nurses now working in to help deal with the Covid-19 crisis.

Social Democrat Roisin Shorthall said that the wage but would be essential to "maintain people's morale".

A number of other amendments were tabled, including the secondment of private medical equipment industry into public control to increase the production of PPE, and other equipment.

People Before Profit's Brid Smith asked the house: "Should it take a pandemic to show our political class that we should not have a two tier health system? Or routine disregard for nurses and other staff? There must be no going back and we must work toward a truly national health service."

Both Roisin Shorthall and Brid Smith noted that current legislation around abortion, including the three day waiting period, is currently "unworkable" for crisis pregnancies, highlighting the need for teleconference access to abortion services and dropping the three day wait.

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