Saturday 1 October 2016

Harris wants 10-year cross-party approach to healthcare system

Greg Harkin

Published 22/07/2016 | 02:30

Health Minister Simon Harris Photo: Frank McGrath
Health Minister Simon Harris Photo: Frank McGrath

Health Minister Simon Harris has called for a new 10-year approach to our healthcare system, with all parties agreeing on what that should be.

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He was speaking at the MacGill Summer School in Glenties last night where he warned of the future dangers of one in three Irish children being obese.

Mr Harris said health service staff were "fed up" with piecemeal reform of the health service. He told the audience at the Highlands Hotel: "Minister for Health X arrives in the department, and tinkers around the edge of the system, and then is often shortly followed by another new Minister for Health, who tinkers with another bit of the system.

"We need to stop running the health service based on election cycles and individual ministerial ideology, and instead put in place once and for all a 10-year strategy with cross-party political and societal buy-in to build, develop, reform and modernise healthcare services for the future."

Mr Harris said he was greeted with "a curious mixture of congratulations and sympathy" when he was appointed Minister for Health.

It was, he said, a "curious mixture based on the assumption that I'd be shaking in my shoes and properly fearful about entering what still gets called 'Angola'. That's not the case."

He said a universal free healthcare system remained unaffordable but a new funding model - Activity Based Funding - would be a "driver" of reform.

Mr Harris said prevention of illness through primary healthcare had to be the way forward.

He said hospitals were full of people who were victims of "the death march of the cigarette" and warned about the current obesity crisis in the country.

"What we have to recognise is that prevention is not an optional extra or a 'nice-to-have', it's a vital part of any coherent healthcare strategy," he said.

"How have we allowed it to be that one out of three children under three are either overweight or clinically obese? How have we allowed this to happen?"

Irish Independent

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