FIANNA Fail unveiled its new health manifesto yesterday and rejected the chance to produce a 'big idea' to rival the 'health insurance for all' promises made by its opposition rivals.
Instead the party's flimsy seven-page manifesto boasted a no-frills theme with party leader Micheal Martin denouncing "gimmicks" and "promises that only last as long as the campaign".
But it relied more on self-congratulation than critical analysis -- despite continuing serious problems with outpatient waiting lists and hospital overcrowding. The furthest the criticism went was a concession from the former minister for health that "there are clear problems remaining in the system".
But he insisted: "The way to tackle these problems is to support the system in implementing reforms -- not to dismantle it."
He also admitted he was disappointed with the numbers of primary care centres -- staffed by GPs and other professionals -- promised in a Fianna Fail strategy document in 2001.
There was no mention of regret about the failure to curb the past era of flashy overspending by the Health Service Executive (HSE).
Overall, the tone was dismissive of Fine Gael and Labour.
He said the plans for compulsory universal healthcare insurance put forward by Fine Gael and Labour were not backed up with credible costings.
"Fine Gael has presented the Dutch insurance model as an answer. What it has not mentioned is that in the Netherlands a couple on a joint income of €50,000 pays over €5,500 in health payments."
Fianna Fail will continue to follow the policies of the outgoing Government and build up the public health system, following the objectives of the four-year recovery plan.
The only change in policy appeared to be abandonment of plans for hospital co-location that will not be extended beyond the four which have project agreements.
Children's Minister Barry Andrews vowed there would be more improvements in childcare this year with the recruitment of another 70 social workers on top of the 200 hired in 2010.
He made no mention of the review into the deaths of children in care, which has been under way for months and has yet to be published.