Tuesday 10th February 2015
Finance Minister Michael Noonan ‘pessimistic’ a solution can be found for Greece
The Irish finance Minister Michael Noonan has said he is pessimistic at this stage that a solution can be found for Greece.
The minister, who is travelling to Brussels tomorrow for an emergency meeting of Eurozone finance ministers, told TDs tonight that he did not favour a debt write-down for the country.
Asked if he was optimistic about a solution being found, he replied: “Today I’m pessimistic.
“Because with the various reports I’m reading in the media and the various briefing notes that I get, I don’t see the basis for a solution emerging yet. Many of the proposals that are emanating are, on the face of it, technically impossible.”
And he said he couldn’t predict what would happen over the coming days, but he said the Greek government had to set out what it wanted, and then the focus would shift to the ECB and European Commission to respond, followed by European governments.
Mr Noonan told the Oireachtas Finance Committee that there was a major humanitarian issue in Greece, and that he had sympathy with the Greek people, but he said he wasn’t in favour of a debt write-off. Instead, he suggested he was in favour of suspending the repayment of debt.
“We won’t favour any write-offs of debt, because if you write off debt, it makes a hole in everyone’s balance sheet,” he said.
“But if you park debt, and even if there’s no interest being paid on it, the debt owed to you is still there as an asset on the balance sheet even if it’s costing the recipient nothing to receive it. So I think there’s space there.
“I want Greece to stay in the Eurozone, so I wouldn’t favour any strategy that would encourage, induce or drive Greece out of the Eurozone.”
Mr Noonan said Ireland had no contact from the Greek authorities either at ministerial or ambassadorial level.
Mr Noonan said there was a problem with the way the bailout programme was implemented in Greece because structural reforms were not made.
“Sovereign countries have responsibilities for running their country, and they have responsibilities for the welfare of their people. The Greek authorities over a number of years did not take the same action as the Irish authorities, the Portuguese authorities or the Spanish authorities.”
Meanwhile, G20 finance ministers tonight urged Greece and its creditors to resolve their difference. US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew cautioned against “casual talk” that Greece could leave the Euro and recommended a “pragmatic approach” in which the parties can agree on terms that are mutually agreeable.
Earlier, UK Chancellor George Osborne said a Greek exit from the Euro would be very difficult for the world economy.
13 ‘significant’ breech births in Drogheda Hospital an audit reveals
HSE says cases involve diagnosis in advanced labour at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital
A HSE audit has found 13 ‘significant incidents’ where a breech birth was diagnosed in advanced labour in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda between May 2012 and June 2014. File photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times
Thirteen “significant incidents” where a breech birth was diagnosed in advanced labour occurred in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda over a two-year period, according to the Health Service Executive (HSE).
The death of a baby in the hospital in 2013 followed an undiagnosed breech and this is under examination by the local coroner, the HSE said in a statement.
An internal clinical audit, prompted by the death, established breech was not diagnosed before labour in 21 cases between May 2012 and June 2014. During this period, 7,667 babies were delivered, with 221 of them in the breech position.
“Overall, approximately 4 per cent of babies will be breech at term. It is widely recognised that even in experienced hands there will be a number of undiagnosed breech presentations in labour,” the HSE said.
“It is important to recognise that these 21 cases are not all critical incidents. Breech diagnosed in early labour is not considered a critical incident and would not usually be reported. However, breech diagnosed in advanced labour is a significant incident and would usually be reported.”
The audit found eight of the 21 cases were diagnosed in very early labour, while 13 were diagnosed in later labour.
According to the statement, the audit was not a review or incident investigation of the 21 cases, but was conducted in order to identify if the rate of undiagnosed breech in the hospital was within an acceptable range.
The rate of undiagnosed breech in the hospital was 9.5 per cent of breech births, compared to an expected rate of 20-25 per cent suggested in international studies.
The 21 births included eight midwife-led patients and 13 in consultant-led units.
In 2007, a coroner returned a verdict of medical misadventure in the case of baby Shane McArdle, who died less than 24 hours after being delivered in a breech position at Our Lady of Lourdes. The breech went undiagnosed.
Babies born in the breech position are delivered buttocks or feet first, as opposed to the head. Many breech births are delivered by Caesarean section.
Last month, it emerged seven births involving oxygen deprivation at Portiuncula hospital in Ballinasloe, two of which resulted in death, are under investigation. Separately, some 170 births in recent years are under review by a HSE panel following complaints from patients about a number of maternity units
Varadkar denies plan to require patients to have insurance to access certain GP procedures
Minister rejects warning by Irish Medical Organisation
“Insurers should cover more procedures being done in primary rather than in hospitals, which is much more expensive”
Minister for Health Leo Varadkar has denied the Government has plans to require patients to have health insurance to access certain procedures and services provided by their GPs.
He said the Department of Health had launched a public consultation process in late December 2014 on the scope for private health insurers to cover a fuller minimum range of services provided by GPs in primary-care settings .
The Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) said on Tuesday that the Government was “preparing a mandate that will require patients to have health insurance to access certain procedures and services through their GPs”.
The IMO said the introduction of mandatory private health insurance to fund GP services would destroy many of the positive characteristics of the current GP system in Ireland.
Dr Ray Walley, the chairman of the IMO’s GP committee, said “such a move would see GPs being forced to treat patients differently depending on whether they had insurance or not, that the profitability of insurance companies would force behaviour and business changes on GP practices, that same-day appointments would become a thing of the past, and that independent GPs would be replaced by corporate GP practices with reduced availability of GPs in rural Ireland”.
Mr Varadkar said there were no plans to require anyone to have insurance and therefore it would not involve any change to the law.
He said the initiative launched by the Department of Health in December related to “people who do not have medical cards and now have to pay their GP the full cost of visits and procedures out of pocket”.
“The Government is looking for ways in which more people can get better value from health insurance if they chose to to have it. This would involve more people being reimbursed for GP visits and procedures by their insurers.
“Some people already have insurance policies that covers some of their primary-care costs but most don’t. For example, this means that if they have their in- grown toenail removed in a hospital they are covered by their insurer but if their GP does it they are not and have to pay out of pocket. That makes no sense. Insurers should cover more procedures being done in primary rather than in hospitals, which is much more expensive.”
The Department of Health said the public consultation process was not linked to the Government’s plan for the introduction of universal health insurance.
The department said 29 submissions had been received as part of the consultation process from stakeholders, representative and interest groups and other interested parties. It said these were currently being considered.
ESA to launch reusable spacecraft into low Earth orbit
Intermediate Experimental Vehicle expected to splash down in Pacific after 1hr 40m
File image of a March 2008 launch from the European Space Agency’s Kourou facility in French Guiana.
The European Space Agency has an important launch on Wednesday from its Kourou launch pad in French Guiana.
The launch is a flight-test of a reusable vehicle that will provide service for visits to low Earth orbit.
Known as the Intermediate Experimental Vehicle or IXV, it is about the size of a family car and weighs about two tonnes.
A European Vega rocket will lift it onto a suborbital path and then release it 340km up and it will continue to climb to about 412km before beginning its short return journey, the agency said.
The flight should prove the IXV can return from space safely. It is expected to splash down in the Pacific Ocean after a total mission time of one hour and 40 minutes.
Flight controllers will use thrusters and aerodynamic flaps like a remote control plane to manoeuvre the craft when in full use.
There is significant Irish involvement in the IXV, according to Tony McDonald, manager of ESA programmes at Enterprise Ireland.
The Dublin subsidiary of US aerospace company Curtiss-Wright, which employs about 140 people, was involved in developing some of the avionics systems controlling the vehicle.
“It is an experimental re-entry vehicle and it will prove the technology works and can be used on future missions,” Mr McDonald said.
“Proof that space technology works is key when you enter the marketplace. You need show the technology works in the space environment.”
Ireland has 50 companies involved in space technology, employing about 2,000 people, he said.
Some are involved in flight activity, but many are also taking technology developed for space and then using it in downstream non-space sectors such as the aircraft industry and medical devices.
Curtiss-Wright has a long history in engineering, given it arose from the original company set up by the Wright brothers after their successful early flights. The company is also involved in “mission critical” data collection as the IXV is put through its paces during the flight.