Thursday 8 December 2016

'Improving hospital food is one of my first priorities', reveals new Minister for Health Simon Harris

Eilish O’Regan Health Correspondent

Published 11/05/2016 | 19:18

The new Minister for Health, Simon Harris Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin
The new Minister for Health, Simon Harris Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

Newly-installed Minister for Health Simon Harris said today one of his priorities will be improving the quality of hospital food.

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He also said the Government plan to dismantle the HSE is aimed at giving hospitals and community health services more decision-making powers.

Mr Harris, the Government’s youngest member of Cabinet told HSE staff who will be directly affected by move that it will lead to more accountability.

He outlined some of his priorities when he addressed  the HSE-run conference on Healthcare Leaders Masterclass 2016 - “Building a

Minister Harris repeated his intention to set up an Oireachtas All- Party committee to devise a single long-term vision for the health service over ten years.

Priorities will include enacting legislation on alcohol aimed at outlawing cheap booze.

He also said funding will be set aside to tackle the massive hospital waiting lists which now have more than 500,000 public patients in the queue.

He also wants to improve the quality of hospital food.

The 29 year old Wicklow TD said :”When I woke up last Friday morning, I never expected to find myself being appointed as Minister for Health.  Clearly, I wasn’t alone in that regard.  By Saturday morning, I had been inundated with a deluge of messages – some congratulatory, some rueful – some in a quite different vein.

 And quite a few that mentioned a certain Southern African country that shall remain nameless…“

So, yes I was surprised, but I was also delighted.  And honoured.  And, keen to take on the challenge.”

He told the gathering :”This Government will request an Oireachtas All-Party committee to develop a single long-term vision for healthcare over a 10 year period. One of most important aspects of the health service is the funding required.

“Too often discussions about health have come down to funding - does the service receive a big enough allocation, are there different ways in which it can be financed and is the funding it does receive spent properly. The 2016 Health Budget is €13.1bn and increases in the health budget have been possible both in Budget 2015 and 2016. It is the Government’s intention to work with the Oireachtas to sustain these annual increases going forward, basing health expenditure on multi-year budgeting supported by a 5 year Health Service Plan.”

He was not trying to say “ all is well” in the health service.

“It isn't. But what I am saying is that we should recognise achievement – your achievements - when we see them, so that we can build on them.

He added:”Of course, we still need to do more and, and working with the Oireachtas, my job now will be to plan ahead for the needs of our conscious of the fact that we have an ageing population who are living longer, whose needs will be become greater and more diverse, and that we also have the highest birth rate in Europe.”

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