A Special Report
CALLS HAVE been made for ''a campaign to be rolled out nationally'' to campaign against Government cuts in funding for disability services.
The Fine Gael Mayor who made the call said: ''I don't know how these people (affected by cuts) can rest at night.
''Minister, with all due respect, I don't know how you can rest at night either,'' added the speaker.
That ''call to arms'' has deep resonance here in Sligo -- with the shredding of the Cregg House role which had been in place since 1955. The template at Cregg House has implications for the wider workforces in our our economy.
On the disability services issue, the Fine Gael Mayor in question is not in Sligo, but in Longford; not male but female, Peggy Nolan. She was protesting at a 3.7% budget cut in disability services for an estimated 180 people at St Christophers in Longford.
See SligoToday.ie 20/4/12True Scale
Cuts in funding for Cregg House for 2012 were also quantified at 3.7% of budget compared with 2011.
However, that use of 2011 as a baseline hides the true scale of historic underfunding at Cregg House, ie year to year to year.
This (crucial) issue of historic underfunding was raised at a meeting in Dublin in April with the MInister for Disability, Kathleen Lynch, attended by all Sligo/Leitrim Oireachtas members.
One speaker at that meeting quantified the scale of HSE underfunding at Cregg House -- and therefore cuts -- as being between 6% to 7% in the country's so-called good years.
The HSE views on those percentages is not yet publicly known despite the fact that the meeting was held three months ago on Wednesday April 25th 2012.
But there is persistent evidence -- not (yet) contradicted -- that the cuts in disability services have an underlying bedrock which goes far beyond health staff templates.
Some details on the disability staffing issues were contained in a special supplement in The Irish Times yesterday, titled "Insight - Changing Perspectives on Disability."
One of the so-called ''cost saver'' solutions being urged by HSE on Cregg House in negotiations and/or documents as yet unpublished was effectively confirmed in the supplement.
It said: "A report due to be published by the Department of Health soon is expected to show significant variations in the cost of delivering similar services in different parts of the State."
It adds: It is understood to show that staffing costs for providing disability services in Ireland are significantly higher than in other jurisdictions.
"Informed sources say it (the Department Report) will conclude there needs to be a better mix of skills within the service, with less emphasis on nursing staff...."
Two points: The impression was given -- or certainly the impression was taken -- when the Cregg House crisis first broke that the costs comparison was only between (a) the Voluntary sector and (b) similar services delivered by the HSE.
The comparison now, however, we are led to believe, is between "jurisdictions." Is that the case? Surely, we should not have to wait another three months?
There is no surprise and no NEW fact there if, in alluding to "jurisdictions," we are only hopping across the Border where staff costs -- in all medical grades and most walks of life -- are significantly lower than in the Republic.
That disparity has accelerated over the past 25 years through instruments of public and political policy and partnership.
The outcomes being shaped now (recognisably) dovetail into a trans-national agenda which will have the troika stroke its chinny-chin-chin with satisfaction, as it watches whole swathes of Ireland changed back into a yellow-pack workforce, from whence it came 25/30 years ago.
The debate is not about costs base -- as it is sometimes presented. It is about wages base, as it never presented. That debate is not confined to health policy, anything but.
Singling out nursing staff when dealing with the issue of funding (and historic underfunding) in delivering disability services is a crude instrument. Why have their unions been so quiet publicly?
Any formula to replace nursing costs and allowances and impost education with care attendants is a crude 'fire brigade' formula coming from accountants, administrators.
The solutions should come from the coal face/interface with service users, ie the patients and their families, ''clients'' as HSE lingo calls them.
Again, why have nursing unions been so quiet publicly on this issue and on other issues? Do they lose their voice in summer months when wards are run down and patients packed home, regardless?
Finally, it remains to be seen if the Fine Gael Mayor in Longford seeks the support of her party counterpart in Sligo, Cllr David Cawley, ''for a campaign to be rolled out nationally'' against funding cuts in disability services.SligoToday.ie
notes the Cregg House HSE report has still not been released.