Carol Nolan TD



Health is our greatest wealth, but the innumerable problems within our healthcare system impoverish individuals, communities, and society. I have campaigned tirelessly on a variety of health-related issues over the past number of years at both local and national level, ranging from the delivery of a primary care centre in Birr to the oversight of HSE-run nursing home facilities.

I have consistently called for:

• Greater accessibility to services (particularly for those living in rural areas)
• Greater affordability of services (through reduction of prescription charges and reform of the private health insurance market, for instance)
• Greater accountability of those in power (such as the need for accountability surrounding the colossal overspend on the National Children’s Hospital).

There is an urgent need to recruit additional staff for the National Ambulance Service to reduce ambulance response times and ensure full coverage of ambulance shifts in all areas, especially rural areas. The ongoing crisis which surrounds emergency department waiting times and the time spent by patients on trolleys reflects inadequate government funding of hospitals.
I am calling for nurses to receive better pay and conditions; the waiving of registration and retention fees; and increased recruitment of psychiatric nurses, neurology nurse specialists and heart failure clinical nurse specialists. The availability of step-down facilities and home help hours needs to be increased and these services must be fairly distributed among the regions. The Minister for Health also needs to take action to address unfair and exorbitant hospital car parking charges which place undue stress on patients and their families.

Carers carry out incredible work and save the state millions of euros each year. However, their important role has been unacknowledged, unappreciated, and underfunded by successive governments.
I have continuously petitioned for the improved pay and working conditions of home carers to assist in the recruitment and retention of such vital personnel. I have also called for a review of the carer’s allowance with a view to abolishing the means test element. Home help hours, respite supports and home care packages also need to be expanded. These should be allocated in a fair manner with access not dependent on a postcode lottery.

Mental health services must become a high-priority area for government in practice as well as in policy. We need to see a substantial increase in the number, availability and quality of mental health services run through the HSE. The Children and Adolescent Mental Health Service suffers from chronic underfunding, which means that many vulnerable children are denied the help and support that they deserve.
The closure of Birr Community Mental Health Service was a huge blow to the locality and should never have happened. Moreover, there is also a shortage throughout the country in acute inpatient psychiatric beds that needs to be addressed. While there are many NGOs and community leaders doing fantastic work in this area, the Government needs to take greater responsibility and fill the serious gaps in service provision.

Patients with disabilities often face significant barriers when trying to access healthcare services. There needs to be an urgent reduction in lengthy waiting lists for speech and occupational therapy, and I am campaigning for a specialist nurse in Down syndrome to be appointed in each of the CHO areas.
Those with vision impairment are disadvantaged by a lack of ophthalmologists, long waiting lists for ophthalmic services, and lack of funding in the eye clinic liaison officer programme. I have further petitioned for the personal assistant service to be extended to persons who are blind and vision impaired. There also needs to be greater investment in a transport support scheme to reduce travel costs to health and social care services for those with a disability (see also section on Disability).

Many people are currently facing difficulty in registering with and accessing a general practitioner service due to a shortage of these key personnel. Rural areas have been worst affected. There must be more investment in GP services, including the funding of chronic disease management, and GP out-of-hours services need to be expanded.
A crisis has similarly emerged in recent years surrounding access to dental and orthodontic care. I have engaged for a number of years with the Irish Dental Association and we have collaborated in our attempts to have a credible stakeholder forum to be convened to address this chronic shortage. The inability of some dentists to take on additional medical card holders, arising in the main from out of date and inadequate contractual arrangements with the HSE, and extensive waiting lists for children to access orthodontic care, are some of the many concerns which have been voiced by my constituents. I have called for immediate interventions to be put in place to address these serious service deficits.