Sunday 17 December 2017

Varadkar says he's keeping public health responsibility - not Reilly

Leo Vardakar says free GP care remains a priority. Photo: Tom Burke
Leo Vardakar says free GP care remains a priority. Photo: Tom Burke
Fionnan Sheahan

Fionnan Sheahan

HEALTH Minister Leo Varadkar has confirmed the public health section will remain in his Department - and not be taken by Children's Minister Dr James Reilly.

Mr Varadkar says there are certain elements his predecessor will take the lead on, such as anti-tobacco policy.

Following the Cabinet reshuffle, there was speculation Dr Reilly would taking public health with him to the Department of Children.

Mr Varadkar said there will be "no silly turf war" over who is responsible for health.

The minister also says the cuts to the health budget last year have "proven to be unrealistic".

Mr Varadkar says the overrun in health service this year will be €450-€500m.

The minister pointed out both Finance Minister Michael Noonan and Public Spending Minister Brendan Howlin were Health Minister's in the past.

During their time in office, the budget for health went up, he said.

Mr Varadkar has also dismissed suggestions he was handed the health portfolio to stop his ambitions.

"I think I was probably put there because the Taoiseach has confidence in me," he said on RTE's Today with Sean O'Rourke.

Mr Varadkar said the big shift that needs to happen is treatment in the community through primary care.

He said the rollout of free GP care was the biggest extension of a social provision since the introduction of free secondary school education under Donogh O'Malley.

"It's an enormous project in its own right," he said.

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