Friday 18 January 2019

Health Minister in spotlight over Sláintecare plan failures

Health Minister Simon Harris. Photo: Frank McGrath
Health Minister Simon Harris. Photo: Frank McGrath
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

The poor record of Health Minister Simon Harris was highlighted yesterday as the failure to act on Sláintecare, the blueprint to improve the health service, was criticised.

The cross-party plan, launched a year ago, had remained deadlocked as the state of the health service has deteriorated.

Promises by Mr Harris to have an implementation plan for Sláintecare in place by April and a director to drive it forward have not been met.

In the meantime, a record high of 500,000 people are now waiting to see a consultant and another 80,000 are on a waiting list for surgery.

Even as temperatures have soared, which often sees a drop in numbers at emergency departments, several hospital A&E departments have continued to endure severe overcrowding.

There were 51 patients enduring trolley congestion at Cork University Hospital yesterday and another 43 in dangerous conditions at University Sláintecare Hospital Limerick.

The Health Reform Alliance, made up of health activists, condemned the state of "arrested development" which has gripped the proposals in Sláintecare to end the two-tier health system, provide free GP care for all and remove private practice from public hospitals.

Dr Tom Keane of the Royal College of Physicians warned that "doctors face challenges every day as a result of overcrowding, poor resourcing and inadequate hospital facilities. This has a negative impact on both doctors and patients".

"Major, sustained emphasis is needed on strengthening and supporting the people who deliver care to ensure the highest standard of care is given to all patients," he said.

He added that health reform was a slow process that didn't happen overnight and the Government needed to move forward quickly to implement recommendations they promised a year ago.

Royal College President Prof Mary Horgan said the Government needed to prioritise healthcare and move forward with its commitment to change.

Immediate action must be taken to deliver a health service that was patient-focused and stressed the healthcare needs of all citizens, she added.

Irish Independent

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