Friday 13 December 2019

Varadkar 'does not recall meeting to Tánaiste' over free GP care concerns

Health Minister Leo Varadkar. Photo: Damien Eagers
Health Minister Leo Varadkar. Photo: Damien Eagers
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

Health Minister Leo Varadkar has said he does not recall speaking to Tanaiste Joan Burton over her concerns about training extra doctors to cover the extension of free GP care.

Speaking at the Labour Party’s election campaign launch, Ms Burton said the health minister should train more doctors to meet the demand from rolling out free GP care for under 12s and over 70s.

“Why don’t we actually train up more GPs, we’ve some of the smartest best educated young people in Europe,” Ms Burton said.

Asked why she was raising her concern with Mr Varadkar’s position only today, Ms Burton said: “I’ve had the conversation about health with the Minister on numerous occasions."

And her deputy leader Alan Kelly added: “I can assure you the Tanaiste had that conversation and I can assure you she did ask all that questions.”

But hours later, at Fine Gael’s first election event, Mr Varadkar insisted he did not meet the Tanaiste to discuss her concerns over free GP care.

“I don’t recall having a meeting with her about or having discussed it with her but given that I see her nearly every week it is quite possible but I certainly have no recollection of a meeting,” he said.

The minister said Fine Gael’s health policy, which now does not included universal free GP, is “both ambitious and realistic”.

“There is no point in being realistic if you are not ambitious,” he added.

He said the health service trains 160 GPS a year about the same amount retire each year. Mr Varadkar said the next government will have to hire 500 more GPS just to “stand still”.

“It is important that if anyone is proposing to go further than we’re proposing that they detail exactly how they would train hundreds of additional GPs that are required,” he said.

“It is up to the Labour Party to demonstrate how they would train the additional GPs to deal with the additional demand,” he added.

Mr Varadkar said he did not believe Ms Burton’s comments were down to constituency rivalry in Dublin West ahead of the election.

“They are different emphasis on policies on health I don’t think it’s to do with constituency rivalry. On a constituency level we actually get on very well,” he said.

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