Fianna Fáil manifesto – not a mention of health and co-location abandoned

Speaking on Morning Ireland on 7 January, Minister of State in the Department of Health and Children Barry Andrews said there was no future for co-location. This is the first public acknowledgment that Fianna Fáil have abandoned one of Mary Harney's pet projects – the plan to co-location private hospitals on the grounds of public hospitals.

Up to this, co-location was going ahead, despite doubts and persistent questioning from many. The Ministerial and Departmental line was that it would go ahead even though it was dropped from HSE 2011 Service Plan.

Just two weeks ago I listened to Department of Health Secretary General Michael Scanlon answer questions at the Public Accounts Committee saying that co-location was going ahead, that there were two problems, one the VHI saying it won't cover people in co-located hospitals and two their bankability. On Monday they had no comment to make on their own minister's comments!

Earlier in the week, I spoke to Michael Cullen of Beacon Medical Group who is behind three of the four co-located hospitals which have signed project agreements with the HSE and as far as he is concerned, they are going ahead. They have invested €30 million in the projects in good faith that the government schemes will proceed. He said the VHI's position is the main obstacle – Cullen is confident he can get investors if VHI issue is resolved. Andrews said that "we will have to see through certain contractual commitments". So the four signed projects may have to go ahead.

Remarkably at the Fianna Fáil manifesto launch, there was not a mention of health. Health is not mentioned ONCE in the Fianna Fáil manifesto. In 2007, Fianna Fáil had 12 pages of promises on health. Micheál Martin said at the Monday's launch that there would be no false promises, well there were no promises at all on health, not even a mention, incredible.

Barry Andrews said Fianna Fáil will publish their own policy on health towards the end of the week or early next week. It has since been announced that the party will give details of its health policy today. I am looking forward to seeing the content.

Andrews said that the "current public/private mix services the country well". I don't know who he has been talking to – even the report by the expert group on resource allocation commissioned by Mary Harney, chaired by ESRI Director France Ruane and published by the Department of Health last July highlights how badly the current public/private mix has served the Irish people. Maybe he should read that before he launches the Fianna Fáil health policy...