International Human Rights Day is marked every year on the date the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was established in 1948: the 10th of December.
This year is also the 50th Anniversary of two very important international Covenants, and the Equality Rights Group (ERG) says it will specifically focus on the application in Gibraltar of one of them: the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The ERG says it will pay specific attention to a number of related social issues in our community in the coming year, starting first with the fundamental issues of health and care.
In this regard, Chairman Felix Alvarez has expressed ‘our very real attention to signals coming from Government with regards to a number of important services for the welfare of citizens.'
Mr Alvarez continued: ‘In the first place, we are heartened to note the Minister for Health, Neil Costa's meetings with leading health service executives in both Wales and Scotland and welcome lessons and models that can be learnt from experiences outside our shores. We have also taken note of Minister Costa's announced undertaking of a GHA 'value for money' exercise using UK-based consultancy services.
‘Unless we have misunderstood, the indications here seem to point, among other important and serious elements of the health service Gibraltarians rightly enjoy, to what could be called a 'process review' which could lead to outside consultants arguing for possible future cutbacks on prescription medicines or services which figure amongst benefits of our current health service. We will be keeping a close eye on this question to see whether any such moves materialise, and if so, the manner in which this may be proposed or carried out. We will be particularly concerned if measures are adopted which disadvantage specific sectors of our population such as the elderly or disabled. Civil Society organisations related to these issues should take note. We agree with the Chief Executive of the UK’s Patients Association when she says that the people best placed to say what has value to patients, are patients themselves. No one else will lose out should rationalisation be wrongly assessed or implemented.
‘Additionally, Government has announced that it will be considering giving permission for the building of a private residential care home on the prime land available at the site of the ex King George V hospital. ERG believes care for the vulnerable in this community cannot be passed on to for-profit organisations, but must remain in the hands of those entrusted to be directly answerable to the public. We believe this is a matter that should concern all of Civil Society, and ERG calls on the Unions in particular to speak up on any concerns in this regard.
‘Let us be clear: the free market in Gibraltar is an essential element of our democratic system. However, the well-being of our community, whether in care or health services generally, is a matter of fundamental trust in those elected to honour the quality of our lives and to the ability for us to sustain a viable economy, and must in no case be handed over, in whatever measure, on the basis of profit.
‘Whilst ERG has no de facto objection to increasing the efficiency of the Gibraltar health service, the community should be wary of exercises such as have been announced. Working people have contributed throughout their lives towards adequate life-long health care and, especially, for support when they become more vulnerable. We have seen the devastating corrosive effect ‘rationalisation’ has had not only on the NHS in the United Kingdom, but elsewhere, too. We urge Government to defend and protect the highest quality of free health service and care for all our citizens,' the statement ended.