Tuesday 21 November 2017

Cuts to prescription charges, shorter waiting lists and free care to all proposed under €5.3bn plan

Health care plan to 'restore confidence in health system'

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Catherine Devine

Catherine Devine

Free GP care for all and a waiting time of no longer than 12 weeks for surgery are promised in a major report setting out a blueprint for the health service today.

The health service will be so transformed that thousands will be able to abandon their health insurance , the report of the cross party Oireachtas committee on Future Healthcare  predicted.

The new service is to be christened Slaintecare.

But over €5bn  more will have to be found in the health budget if the dream  to be phased in over a decade will become reality.

The key recommendations are:

  • Removal of private patients from public hospitals over five years.
  • An insured patient can still attend a public hospital but only as a public patient, with no queue jumping.
  • All private patients will have to be treated in private hospitals.
  • An additional 500,000 people a year should be given free GP care until everyone has the entitlement.
  • Nobody should wait longer than 12 weeks for surgery or 10 weeks to see a specialist.
  • Hospitals which fail to meet targets should be sanctioned.
  • The prescription charge for medical card holders should be cut to 50c from €2.50
  • The €80 overnight public hospital charge should be abolished.
  • Reduce the drug payment threshold per month to €100
  • Remove the €100 A&E charge in year eight

Chairwoman Deputy Roisin Shortall said the aim is to have a one tier health service which does not rely on ability to pay.

Even people with private health insurance have limited cover, she added.

There needs to be a shift from the over dependence on hospitals to more community care, she added.

The report says a national health fund should be set up.

 Some €3bn in transitional funding over six years is needed to boost areas like capital spending.

The funding for the measures should come from a mix of general taxation and specific earmarked funds.

This will have to be decided on by the Government of the day.

 A key challenge will be the recruitment of staff , including hospital consultants who will lose out if private practice in public hospitals is abolished.

 Many more GPS are needed and some of these should be salaried public servants, said the report.

 Deputy Shortall said having a ten year plan should give confidence to health staff who emigrated to return.

 Everyone will get a carta slainte which will entitle them to a range of free benefits, including home care services.

Solidarity/People Before Profit TD Mick Barry however said he dissented from the report which did not go far enough.

He wants a national health service , with no charges.

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