Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Europort Hospital a ‘huge error’ - Montegriffo

With ‘propaganda’ as her mantra and slogan and 114 pages of speech notes clutched in her hands, Mari Montegriffo, shadow health spokesman listened out Ernest Britto’s health contribution to the Budget with a smile of a shark about to have dinner.

Such was the anticipation of her annual diatribe that the Chief Minister was away from the House the entire Monday and much of the Government bench took extended tea breaks as she set out to argue that they had failed to live up to their promises.

Ms Montegriffo dubbed the new hospital a failure and said the health service is getting worse. “The Government has made a huge mistake in housing St Bernard’s in the Europort building,” she said.

Reminding Government that it is for them to defend their record, Ms Montegriffo referred to a report on nursing dating back to 1997 and said that Government had failed to publish and implement this and had cast it to the waste bin.

“What counts is what the people of Gibraltar think and I can assure him (the Chief Minister) that they don’t think that our health services have improved by 100%,” she said denying that the Opposition is out to discredit the Government. People had been waiting and the Government had been in power for nine years, she said.

Ms Montegriffo accused the Government of an amazing “spin and propaganda” operation dating back to 1996 in which promises “bombarded on the public” were repeated but did not materialise.

Despite Mr Britto’s arguments the evidence was that things are getting worse, she said. “Mr Britto has tried to paint a scenario which is unreal, a scenario which is alien to everyone except him.”

Keith Azopardi and Dr Bernard Linares as health ministers had made promises but had been unwilling to say what recommendations from their reviews they would implement.

“After all these years we ask the same question. Has the latest review produced and substantial improvements? All the evidence suggests it has not.”

People would not be fooled and the Government was going “a paso de tortuga” she said. The new hospital had simply added to the old problems, “the problems have simply migrated to Europort.”

In an unusual scene for the House, Ms Montegriffo produced photographs claiming a wall had collapsed when a patient sat on a seat (Mr Britto denied the wall had collapsed). She said that this was the result of converting offices instead of building a new hospital as the Opposition had said.

The Government had blamed the staff but this was the same staff that had been praised by a Sheffield report and who were there “in the good old days when the situation was like heaven compared to the hellish situation with the GSD (Gibraltar Social Democrats).”

She claimed staff are very upset with Government and are demoralised.

Ms Montegriffo warned that Government could face a worse reprimand at the next election than the last over what she said was more patients looking for private treatment just as more people were moving to Spain. More patients than ever were complaining to the Opposition even GSD voters, she said.

And she said Mr Britto had a “cheek” to make a song and dance about a second orthopaedic surgeon when the 2000 GSD manifesto had promised this and nothing materialised.

“All these wasted years have meant patients subjected to unnecessary suffering,” she said adding that the GSD manifesto were not worth the paper they are printed on.

Waiting lists, she said producing lists of times from answers to questions, had shot up since 1996. “How long will it take to be properly functioning?” Ms Montegriffo said the answer to waiting list reduction was obvious – either more theatres and staff or sponsor more patients abroad to bring down the lists.

The shadow health minister asked Government to say how much the review will cost and went on to say that the Opposition were against reviews and believed the job could be done locally. The Government itself was picking and choosing anyway, she added.

The new GHA Chief Executive was not spared. Ms Montegriffo pointed to his £2,000 a week salary and her internet search on articles relating to Dr David McCutcheon where politicians had taken him to task over spending.

“Let us see how successful Dr McCutcheon is going to be this time round in Gibraltar. We suspect that as soon as he set foot in Gibraltar his wings were clipped and by none other than the fourth minister for health, our political supreme, the honourable Chief Minister!”

The Government, she concluded “is not fit to govern.”


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