Thursday 25 December 2014

Editorial: Reilly must deliver on pledge to reform HSE

Published 03/06/2014 | 02:30

Health Minister Dr James Reilly. Photo: Collins
Health Minister Dr James Reilly. Photo: Collins

The Health Minister, James Reilly, came to office in 2011 promising the most radical reform of the health service seen since the foundation of the State. Bolstered by a loyal Taoiseach and the largest government majority in history, the scope to deliver that reform was as good as afforded to any minister. Three-and-a-half years later, Reilly stands battered, bruised and on the verge of being shown the door.

His mishandling of the discretionary medical card issue cost his party many good councillors in last month's elections and has led to public calls from within Fine Gael for him to be sacked.

These calls follow widespread expressions of discontent about his ability as minister from within the Labour Party.

Today's Irish Independent revelations that his ambitious plan for universal GP care by 2016 could cost €332m to deliver, call into question the very viability of the entire project.

The omens are not good.

Dr Reilly's Universal Health Insurance Model appears doomed, the Health Service Executive (HSE) was already €80m over budget at the end of March and the Government will have the European Commission's warnings about such budget overruns ringing loudly in their ears as they meet this morning at Cabinet.

The commission highlighted that despite a relatively young population, "public healthcare expenditure (in Ireland) was among the highest in the EU in 2012 at 8.7 per cent".

In other words, the system is riddled with waste and there is a chronic failure to control costs.

"This causes delays and hurdles in collecting and processing information. It also hinders the monitoring of healthcare expenditure and efforts to achieve value-for-money and an appropriate allocation of resources," the report says.

Added to all this, Dr Reilly will have to find the additional money to cover the cost of the U-turn on the medical card review.

Whether Dr Reilly survives in health is a secondary matter. The people voted in 2011 for reform of the health sector and they voted to give a colossal Dail majority to Fine Gael and Labour to tackle the vested interests who for decades stymied reform.

Failure to deliver those reforms were among the reasons the electorate punished both government parties on May 23. Dr Reilly and his coalition government must now heed those calls.

Relief and happiness that Roy is to stay

ROY Keane has ended a week of rampant speculation over a possible move to Celtic, speculation that had many of the pessimists already waving goodbye to the Corkman. As has been his wont over the years, Roy made up his own mind, and took the path less-touted. His decision to remain as Martin O'Neill's Number Two in the Ireland camp has been greeted with much relief and happiness.

In the job for just a few short months, Keane has already drawn the admiration of the young up-and-coming squad, as they've praised his 'incisive' advice.

Since being welcomed back into the Ireland fold, he's been showing a jovial face. He appears to be settling in well with O'Neill, and has been a constant at the pitch side.

And maybe his latest move, or lack of one, will be the salve needed to finally heal the wounds left by the Saipan fiasco.

As an exceptional player, Keane provided more thrills and great memories to Irish and Manchester United fans than anyone else of his generation. Yet it was the 2002 World Cup Saipan fall-out that still rankled. Perhaps the latest decision from Roy to firmly stay put will prove as beneficial to him, as to the Ireland camp, as he has much to learn from the experienced O'Neill. And there is little doubt but that he'll bring his passion and notorious work ethic to bear on the young guns in the dressing room.

Irish Independent

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