Saturday 24 March 2018

'Five more years to solve the trolley crisis,' admits FG

Enda Kenny gets a health check from Róisín Phelan. Photo:
Tom Burke
Enda Kenny gets a health check from Róisín Phelan. Photo: Tom Burke
Senator Catherine Noone looks on as Health Minister Leo Varadkar gets an ultrasound at the launch of the Fine Gael Plan for Health at the Centric Medical Primary Care Centre, Navan Road, Dublin. Photo: Tom Burke
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

It will take another five years before waiting times for a bed for the vast majority of patients on trolleys will come down to six hours or less, Fine Gael has conceded.

The party's admission comes nearly a decade after it pledged to end the "scandal" of trolley waits.

It delivered a more muted election manifesto pledge yesterday but many still question where even this is possible even in five years. There were 336 patients on trolleys yesterday morning across the country, of whom 191 were waiting for a bed for more than nine hours.

Speaking at the launch of his party's €2bn health manifesto, Health Minister Leo Varadkar said currently: "Sixty-eight per cent of patients spend less than six hours in an emergency department."

If returned to government, Fine Gael promises to improve this by 5pc annually, he said.

The party's overall health manifesto is much more restrained than its pre-election promises of 2011, which promised an end to the two-tier health system and free GP care for all.

However, while still "committed" to universal healthcare, Mr Varadkar and Taoiseach Enda Kenny admitted yesterday that over the next five years the health service would be funded by taxation, out-of-pocket expenses and private health insurance.

Fine Gael plans to go ahead and dismantle the HSE and said that in order for this to be meaningful there would have to be "voluntary redundancies".

Mr Varadkar said a lot of improvements in the health service could only be brought about by better management, both at the head of hospitals and at ward level.

Instead of free GP care for all, Fine Gael will only extend it to under-12s first and then under-18s. Mr Kenny said the party would "take one big step every year" towards its version of universal healthcare.

These will include restoring dental benefits for people covered by PRSI or a medical card.

There will be new schemes available for people with ongoing diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease and respiratory disease, which would see much of their care delivered by a GP, rather than a hospital.

Some 10,000 severely disabled children who are covered by the Domiciliary Care Allowance will get a full medical card.

The monthly cap for the prescription charge for medical care holders will come down from the current €25 to €17.50 a month.

The annual cap under the Drug Payment Scheme will fall from €1,728 to €950.

Other proposals include:

  • A tax on fizzy drinks
  • 100 more training places for GPs
  • An investment of €750m in primary care, providing more services outside of hospital
  • A five-year budget for the health service from 2017
  • Faster access to mental health services.

Irish Independent

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