FF faces election crisis over health service attacks

FIANNA FÁIL’S electoral vulnerability on the health service won’t have been improved by this week’s scathing comments from one of its own elected councillors.

Cllr Jimmy O’Gorman described the health service as a “national disgrace” during a meeting of Lismore Town Council and — in an equally uncompromising attack on Tánaiste and Health Minister Mary Harney — branded a letter from the minister to the council “an insult”.

Councillors had requested to receive a deputation — at a time and venue of the minister’s choosing — to discuss the government’s failure to set up a caredoc clinic in Lismore, as had previously been agreed.

In her reply, the Tánaiste said that because of her many other prior commitments, she could not accede to the request.

“Given the importance of this issue and the absolute urgency of having a caredoc clinic in Lismore — that would serve the entire west Waterford area, from Cappoquin to Tallow and Ballyduff — I find that response totally unacceptable,” Mr O’Gorman said yesterday.

Nor is he in an apologetic vein for branding the health service a disgrace. “That’s exactly what it is, and while I am honoured to represent Fianna Fáil, I have been elected to represent people in my area, whatever their political party affiliation. The health service should be above politics,” he said.

A sum of €800,000 had been allocated by the South Eastern Health Board to set up caredoc clinics in Waterford, Dungarvan and Lismore but, while Waterford and Dungarvan have both come on line, Lismore has been left out.

“In essence, we have been abandoned,” said Mr O’Gorman, who’s also vehemently rejecting accusations of scaremongering on the issue. “The fact of the matter is that an entire area of the county is without a service that both Dungarvan and Waterford have.”

However, health board chiefs insist there isn’t a sufficient volume of calls in the west Waterford area to warrant the setting up of a caredoc clinic in Lismore — and therein lies the current deadlock.

Cllr Peter Ahern — elected to the council as a Fianna Fáil candidate, but who now sits as an Independent following his split with the party last year — said the issue will be made a very live one in the upcoming general election.

Mr Ahern, who’s also angrily rejecting the scaremongering charge, said there may even be consideration to putting forward an election candidate standing purely on the health issue. ” That’s how strong feelings are presently running on this one,” he said.

Fine Gael’s Cllr John Heneghan said Waterford now has a first-world country, with third-world facilities. “You only have a chance of being medically treated if you are willing to pay, and what we now have is an American style health system,’’ he said.

The town council is to renew its appeal to the Tánaiste, to meet at a date of her choosing. “We will await her response before deciding on our next move,’’ said Mr O’Gorman.

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