Free GP care for everyone is no longer on table, admits Varadkar
Health Minister Leo Varadkar has confirmed Fine Gael is no longer promising free GP care for all if re-elected to government.
Instead, the party will attempt to extend the free visits to children under 18 years of age, with more funding going instead to the care of people with ongoing diseases such as diabetes.
Mr Varadkar said that "we are already short of GPs" and they could not cope with free visits for all age groups.
He also confirmed reports in the Irish Independent that upcoming legislation would allow for fertility treatments to be publicly funded for the first time.
He said yesterday the legislation governing the regulation forms of assisted conception would be published later this year.
The treatments, currently only available privately at a cost of around €4,500, will be fully or partly funded by the State from next year.
This should have been done before now but was not possible because of a lack of legislation regulating these clinics and treatments, he added.
In response, Dr John Waterstone, President of the Irish Fertility Society, said it was encouraging news for "our patients who are struggling to have babies, many of whom have difficulty affording the treatments".
"My hope is that whatever funding arrangements are made are comprehensive, and I would particularly hope that they provide for the area of pre-implantation genetic diagnosis," he said.
Meanwhile, the minister announced a €2m pilot project in three hospitals to better assess the ratio of nurses to patients on different wards. This would help improve patient safety, he added.
The measure was welcomed by Liam Doran, head of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, in advance of the results of this week's ballot by nurses on measures to reduce the trolleys crisis.