James Reilly: 'My future lies in the Department of Health'
The health service has faced severe criticism in recent days with thousands of pensioners being targeted in a clampdown over medical card eligibility and parents left disgruntled at a reduction in the number of discretionary cards.
"I was resigned last week to go home and recover from a Strep throat and it took me four or five days to do so," said Minister Reilly, after he pulled out of addressing last week's annual conference of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation due to ill health.
"I want to apologise to all the people we had made arrangements with to open various facilities around Cork and Kerry and Waterford, that it wasn't possible for me to do so."
Following a meeting at the Oberstown Campus for young offenders in north Dublin, alongside the new Minister for Children Charlie Flanagan, Dr Reilly said rumours of his "resignation have been greatly exaggerated".
The former Lusk GP said he was committed to fixing the health system, with "huge progress" made against major challenges.
Dr Reilly said it was his aim to continue working in the health portfolio to push the changes necessary to move towards universal health care for the lifetime of the coalition Government.
"That would be my intention but I am not in control of my destiny in all these matters - there are large buses in Dublin that could see me out," he said, amid queries over whether he felt Taoiseach Enda Kenny would leave him running the beleaguered Department of Health.
"That is a matter for the Taoiseach. I believe I am doing the job as well as anyone could be expected to do it, I believe we've made huge progress but the Taoiseach always has to look to the broader picture, he'll do that and I've no doubt make the decision as he feels best befits him to do and I respect that."
The minister said he wanted to install a health system informed by those working in the medical profession to best serve the general public.