'I hope to God I'm allowed to stay as Health Minister': Harris
Simon Harris has insisted he wants to stay on as Health Minister, despite claims he wanted a general election to get out of the difficult portfolio.
Mr Harris said he wants to implement the 10-year Sláintecare plan for the health service.
"I'm up for it and I hope to God I'm allowed remain as Health Minister after the next election and actually get on with the plan," he said.
His remarks came despite claims he was among Fine Gael ministers encouraging Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to call a snap general election.
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Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin claimed at the weekend that Mr Harris and Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy had been "gagging" for an early poll.
He told the 'Sunday Independent': "The rumour in Fine Gael is that they want to get out of Health and Housing as quickly as possible. It reflects on the paucity of their attempts to deal with the two areas of greatest crisis in our society."
Mr Harris wasn't asked about Mr Martin's comments during an interview on East Coast FM.
But he defended the Government's record on health and insisted he wants to be Health Minister after the next election.
In response to a question about hospital waiting lists and staff shortages, he argued that there have been improvements in the health service citing how there is increased life expectancy in the population and better outcomes for cancer and stroke patients.
He said "these things don't happen by accident" and added that the number of nurses and doctors is being increased.
Mr Harris said there are fewer people waiting for hospital operations than when he became minister, while admitting there's a "real challenge" in relation to outpatient waiting lists.
He said the cross-party Sláintecare plan is the answer to problems in the health service. He said it will bring in universal healthcare and less bureaucracy.