HEALTH Minister James Reilly has admitted that his decision to triple the prescription charge for medical card holders may be stopping some people from getting the medicines they need.
The minister - who castigated the last government for introducing the 50c per item charge - ended up hiking it to €1.50.
He bluntly conceded today that the charge- which has cost medical card holders €105m since its introduction three years ago - deters some low income people from taking medicines but insisted “I am but one member of Cabinet.
“I still have reservations about it but I cannot win all battles.I am a member of a government that is trying to turn this country around.”
He would prefer to have followed the NHS system where the prescription charge did not apply to the lowest one third of earners.
The minister was challenged on policy u-turns and the delay in delivering on pre-election promises during an interview on RTE radio’s Today with Sean O’ Rourke.
In a wide-ranging interview he said:
* There are strong signals that Cabinet will give the go-head to begin the phased introduction of free GP care for young children from next year at a cost of €40m
* He believes that hospitals will meet the target to clear the the list of nearly 90,000 people who are waiting for over a year for an outpatient appointment by December.
* Despite the big rise in waiting lists, patients who need to be admitted to hospital for an operation will not be waiting more than eight months at the end of 2013.
* He could not give any commitment on compensation for around 55 children who developed the sleeping disorder narcolepsy after getting the swine flu vaccine. He is in favour of a no fault compensations scheme for victims of vaccine errors but they are likely to have to pursue their cases through the High Court. In the meantime all the medical needs are catered for.
* The minister could not say how much it will cost to bring in universal healthcare insurance at this stage.Payments to hospital consultants and private hospitals have to come down first.
* The health service will need a bailout from because of over-runs at the end of the year but it is not possible to say how much.The bad winter doubled the increase in demand for health services which had been predicted in January.
The Minister said he would not like to be moved from the Department of Health in any government re-shuffle because his job is his “passion” - but he admitted it is in the hands of the Taoiseach.