TG and Govt clash over GHA spending
Funding of the Gibraltar Health Authority has been at the centre of the latest dispute between Together Gibraltar and the Gibraltar Government.
TG claimed austerity is here, highlighting recent cuts to the GHA, but hours later the Government said it had invested over £1billion into health services.
The party took issue with Chief Minister Fabian Picardo’s May Day message in which he said the costs of Covid would be fully repaid without bringing austerity.
The party said Mr Picardo promised that Gibraltar was a “tiger economy” with robust public finances and in March 2020 there was £150m in reserves.
“Roughly six (pandemic) months later, a UK bailout in the form of a soft loan was
necessary to keep Gibraltar afloat,” the party said.
“Now we are being told that no austerity will be implemented in Gibraltar, when it has
become abundantly clear that this is not the case.”
“Austerity is already here, and it must be called out for what it is. In the last year we have seen cuts across most departments, but none quite as visible and painful as within the GHA.”
But the Government responded these statements are inaccurate, and instead more money is now spent on health and more people are employed there than ever before.
“The wild, populist comments made by Together Gibraltar simply do not stand up to scrutiny,” the Government said.
“They complain when the Government spends money and they also complain when the Government does not spend money. They complain when more staff is employed and they also complain when less staff is employed. This two-faced approach smacks of political hypocrisy in the extreme.”
The Government said the latest published figures in the estimates for 2019/20 show that they spent £123 million on the Gibraltar Health Authority with over 1000 members of staff.
Together Gibraltar said medical staff are being stretched to the limit, working with inadequate staffing levels due to vacancies not being filled, supply staff not being renewed, and professionals being hired on a precarious basis.
“The insinuation that problems of access to appointments in the PCC are linked to staff absenteeism is simply an insult to a workforce that has just carried our community through a pandemic, working tirelessly through terrifying times,” TG said.
TG called for the resignation of the person who implemented these cuts, adding these decisions are causing pain, sickness, and in some cases potentially death.
“Together Gibraltar has received representations from severely sick citizens unable to see a doctor at the PCC for weeks; cancer patients whose tests have been delayed, A&E patients not being sent for life-saving surgery on time, disabled, elderly or severely impaired patients left to wait unaided for months for treatments and referrals, and of course, dozens and dozens of citizens who simply cannot get through to the PCC when they need it, after spending hours on the phone.”
“When protesters coined the slogan ‘Austerity kills’, this was exactly what they were
The Government replied that their spending figures show a stream of continuous and sustained investment in health services which is without precedent in the history of Gibraltar.
It added in total this comes to well over £1billion since the government came into office. “This includes more GPs, the provision of more services and more staff than ever before,” a statement from No6 Convent Place said.
“Together Gibraltar need to understand that we are dealing with the effects of a global pandemic, unheard of in modern times, which has killed millions and infected millions more all over the globe.”
The Government added health services in Gibraltar have been geared towards fighting the pandemic and the process returning back to normality is not something that can happen
“This has been felt particularly at the Primary Care Centre,” the Government said.
TG said the government’s plan to cut waste and abuse in the system amounts to an
admission of maladministration.
They also said that some measure of reform is necessary and Gibraltars need to streamline most of its public services, modernise processes and improve the management of its resources.
“If cuts are necessary due to financial problems, the Government must first
acknowledge that this is the case, give a clear and accurate depiction of the state
our public finances, and then open up a discussion with opposition parties and social
stakeholders,” TG said.
The party said it will call out all austerity cuts that impact on fundamental services such as
healthcare, and will publish a series of anonymous testimonies of constituents explaining their ordeals with a diminished GHA.
In response the Government said this statement was a negative and destructive approach adopted by Together Gibraltar.
“They have shown at best that they do not know what they are talking about or at worst that they are mischievously twisting the facts to suit their own political ends,” the Governemnt said.
“The plain fact is that this Government had invested more than ever in the health and public
services of Gibraltar and will continue to invest going forward. This is the opposite of austerity no matter what our opponents may say.”