SF defends its €30bn healthcare strategy
Sinn Féin's plans for Universal Health Care will cost some €30bn and may not be delivered until 2025, the party has conceded.
Central to the party's highly ambitious health plan are hospital waiting lists and the effective abolition of private health insurance.
Based on the Portuguese model, the scheme - which the party calls 'Comhliosta' - involves up to €500m per annum being used to replace the revenue generated by private patients.
Insisting that the plan is without a "gimmicky silver bullet", the party's policy advisor, Miriam Murphy, said the scheme aims to create a health system that prioritises need over income. Ms Murphy said that in cases of medical card provision, the emphasis on the income of a household operates as a "poverty trap".
Key measures include the transfer of patients from hospitals which fail to properly manage waiting lists, provision of 9,000 additional medical cards for children with disabilities, and the phased abolition of prescription charges. But the party came under fire for its pledge to introduce Universal Health Care over the next two terms.
Sinn Féin health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin admitted that up to €30bn may be required for it to be delivered.
"That may well be the case. But we are talking about this happening over many, many years," he said.
But the party's finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty insisted that the plan will not be delivered through tax hikes, but instead "progressive taxation".
Fine Gael TD Jerry Buttimer said Sinn Féin has failed to explain how its health plan will be paid for.