Bolstered by the support of city and Tramore-based Councillors, outgoing TD John Halligan (Independent Alliance) has also gained significant backing in the west of the county, boosting his chances of a return to the Dáil.
In addition to the backing of Independent Councillors Sean Reinhardt, Joe Kelly, Blaise Hannigan and Joe Conway, Deputy Halligan has also won the support of Old Parish-based Seamus Donnell and former Labour Council and former Mayor of Dungarvan, Teresa Wright.
“I’m thrilled with the support I’ve picked up from right across the county – be it Passage, Carrickbeg, Helvick, Rathgormack, Portlaw, Dunmore and Dungarvan, just to name a few areas – it’s been wonderful, and I just hope I don’t let any of them down between now and voting day,” said Deputy Halligan.
“I’ve had people with me out on the canvass from towns and villages right across the county that I didn’t have five years ago, and to have Teresa Wright in my corner, from Dungarvan, has been a huge gain for me. She’s a big hitter, she’d been in the Labour Party throughout her time in elected politics, and all of her supporters have now come over to me. So gaining that level of support and having so many more people talking to voters on the doors about my record in the Dáil and my commitment to the people of Waterford has been wonderful, and I’m so grateful to all those who’ve braved the wind and the rain these past few weeks.”
While the coalition candidates have been emphasising the economy and the recovery, health and the “erosion of hospital services” at University Hospital Waterford (UHW) has been the foremost issue John Halligan has encountered on the doorsteps.
According to figures provided to this newspaper by the Independent Alliance TD, the numbers waiting to see a consultant at UHW are now approaching 20,000.
And when one considers that in 2012, the first time the Health Service Executive (HSE) published outpatient date, that same figure came in at just over 15,000, it’s clear that this problem has escalated.
“Throughout the 31st Dáil, I consistently argued that that the hospital reconfiguration, which saw Waterford regrouped with Cork, has been detrimental to local services,” Deputy Halligan continued.
“The statistics are irrefutable – staff shortages and cutbacks have created excessive waiting times across a range of specialties in Waterford, compared to the national average. Day cases and admissions have dropped dramatically and there are now almost 20,000 waiting for an outpatient appointment and almost 4,300 awaiting an inpatient date.
“But these statistics do not adequately describe the horrific stories that I am hearing on the doorsteps during this campaign. The impact on patient care has been profound, with several departments at breaking point, people in their 90s abandoned on trolleys and the differential waiting times for medical card and privately insured patients lengthening by the day.”
Deputy Halligan added: “On assuming office, the Government indicated that tackling hospital waiting lists would be one of its top priorities in the area of health service provision. Instead, they have made matters in Waterford so much worse. Voters are furious and they are determined to make their voices heard this Friday. Their neglect of Waterford’s healthcare system will be a decisive issue amongst local voters in this election.”
Cllr Sean Reinhardt, who was co-opted onto Waterford City Council (as then it was titled) following John Halligan’s election to the Dáil in 2011,
“John has led the charge – both locally and nationally – in the campaigns against Water and Household charges,” he said, “Above all, he has been the only champion Waterford has had in the Dáil – for the vulnerable, for local people and local businesses struggling to keep afloat.”
“There’s no doubt that many constituencies will return an Independent to the new Dáil and Waterford needs to be amongst them, if we are to have a voice speaking up for us that isn’t guided by party interests.”
Cllr Reinhardt concluded: “We need to elect a TD who has the best interests of Waterford – and not a political party – at heart. John Halligan is that candidate.”