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NWCI calls for Sláintecare to be a priority for Government

Published: Thursday, June 25, 2020

The National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) held their #FeministAgenda Universal Health & Women webinar today, Thursday 25th June, 11:30 – 1 pm, saying there can be no going back to the inadequate, pre-pandemic healthcare systems, and calling on the new Government to significantly invest in public services and infrastructure to build on the response to COVID 19.

Speakers at the webinar included Laura Magahy, Executive Director, Sláintecare Programme Office, Department of Health, Prof. Sarah Hawkes, Director of the Centre for Gender and Global Health, Sarah Hillware, Deputy Director, Women in Global Health.

Orla O’Connor, Director of NWCI said,

“The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us all a lot about the weaknesses in our health services and what our priorities for reform should be. Austerity cannot be the response to the COVID-19 crisis.  Instead we believe that our Government must now accelerate the provision of universal health and social care.  In response to the pandemic, temporary measures were introduced to ensure that everyone received the same access to healthcare regardless of insurance status.  These important steps towards universality cannot be lost. “

She continued

“Sláintecare provides a crucial opportunity to ensure everyone can access high-quality, affordable health services when they need to. The implementation of Sláintecare must prioritise low-income and marginalised women who have the worst health outcomes and access to care. The lockdown also highlighted how women are the backbone of our health and social care workforce but that many are in insecure, low paid jobs. We need to build health systems that value all key workers, including home care workers, hospital cleaners and health care assistants, with job security, a fair income and access to that other crucial public service, quality accessible childcare.”

Sarah Hillware, Deputy Director, Women in Global Health said

“Make no mistake, Universal Healthcare (UHC) will be delivered by women. Women health workers currently deliver services to around 5 billion people and comprise 70% of the health and social care workforce, yet occupy only 25% of leadership roles in health. To build back better post-pandemic, we must challenge power and privilege in health to ensure women are at the decision-making table, in both the design and delivery of health systems. We will not achieve health for all unless we can reach the most marginalized girls and women, and connect local reality to policy, hardwiring rights and agency across the board, and safeguarding access to services, especially sexual and reproductive health. ”

Laura Magahy, Executive Director, Sláintecare Programme Office, the Department of Health said

“I am delighted to take part in the National Women’s Council of Ireland’s webinar on Universal Healthcare and Women. This event provides us with the opportunity to reflect on how Sláintecare’s goals are aligned with those of NWCI in the work to bring about meaningful and long-lasting change to health and social care in Ireland for all, including for women and girls. Lessons learned from COVID-19 are being factored into how we prioritise the delivery of Sláintecare, which will reform Ireland’s health and social care service to ensure that the right care is delivered in the right place and at the right time, expanding a system where care is provided on the basis of need, not ability to pay. ”

She continued

”Through specific Sláintecare-funded services, we are testing new ways of empowering citizens to stay healthy and well.  A number of these projects are specifically focused on improving health outcomes for women, and include those involved in strengthening the Community Mothers Programme, those helping pregnant women to quit smoking, and those seeking to increase sport and physical activity participation among women. We are delighted to support these projects which demonstrate innovation in the delivery of care and which we believe will have a long-lasting and tangible impact on women’s health in Ireland. “

Professor Sarah Hawkes, Director of the Centre for Gender and Global Health said,

”If there is one positive thing to come out of the health catastrophe that is COVID-19, it is that more people recognise that our position and power in society influences both our likelihood of illness and the type and quality of health care we will receive. As we know, gender is a reflection of both power and position across all societies.”

She ended

“A healthy society is a gender equal society – an idea that lies at the heart of the Universal Healthcare (UHC) movement and calls not only for the realisation of the right to health, but also the realisation of the right to a life free from gender inequality.”  

Ends /

For more information, please contact Silke Paasche, Head of Communications, silkep@nwci.ie, 085 858 9104.