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Saturday 30 August 2014

Varadkar: Not enough time to reduce health deficit this year

Philip Ryan

Published 11/07/2014 | 19:32

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New Health Minister Leo Varadkar has admitted he will not be able to balance the health budget this year.

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Mr Varadkar said he did not think there was enough time this year but he hoped to address the massive overspend during his tenure.

“If we are running a deficit I don’t think it will be possible to turn it around in the space of a few months but definitely in a full financial year that would be my intention,” he said.

His predecessor James Reilly was regularly accused of failing to control the Department’s spending which is currently faced with a massive €160m deficit.

Mr Varadkar, who is a qualified doctor, said he did not think he would be able to solve all the problems in the health service before the next general election.

“I’m not sure I will be able to turn a poisoned chalice into sweet wine but I am going to do all that I can to improve our health service,” he added.

He pledged to focus on reducing the cost of medicine and health insurance.

But he refused to be drawn on his plans for universal health insurance which Mr Reilly was hoping to introduce.

He said he had a “good conversation” with Mr Reilly today and they planned to discuss the Department again next week.

He said Mr Reilly would continue working on some aspects of public health, including smoking legislation, in his new role as Minister for Children and Youth Affairs.

He also noted the Department of Health is regularly called Angola but said the country is now one of the fastest growing economies in Africa.

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