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'People are dying on waiting lists': Harris urged to fix health service once and for all

The Future of Healthcare report which aims to reform the health service over 10 years has been criticised for the spending it proposes.

People are dying on waiting lists. There are serious problems in our health service. We need to start making changes now.

THE CHAIRPERSON OF the Oireachtas Committee of the Future of Healthcare, Róisín Shortall, has said now is the time to grasp change and tackle the problems within the health service.

Minister for Health Simon Harris signalled to his Cabinet colleagues yesterday there is an issue surrounding the costs proposed in the committee’s report.

After a period of 11 months and hundreds of submissions, the cross-party committee published a report with a long-term plan for reforming the health service in Ireland over a 10-year period.

The report calls for additional funding of up to €700 million a year to solve issues such as overcrowding, hospital costs, and reducing waiting lists.

However, the report has been criticised (even by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar) for being too costly. Independent TD Michael Harty withdrew support from the government during the vote for Taoiseach due to the lack of commitment to back the committee’s findings.

Healthcare reform

Shortall told TheJournal.ie that she was very concerned to hear Harris is only willing to support elements of the report that are in line with government policy.

“They just don’t get it if that is what government are thinking,” she said, adding that the reason behind the committee was to introduce new ideas, and to move away from policy that has failed to deliver for the Irish people to date.

“The problem with the health service down the years is that it has been used as a political football. With every new minister came a new plan.”

A government source indicated that the report did not face up to the “financial realities” and that while it would be welcome in an ideal world, certain aspects do not take into account other spending commitments.

Shortall said the plan is to “invest now in order to save later”.

“It is achievable to implement this over 10 years and possible to fund it,” she insisted, stating that the initial funding needed this year is minimal.

‘People are losing out’

“It can be delivered on a phased basis so we can move away from a two-tiered dysfunctional system where the people are losing out.”

The Social Democrats TD said health was the single most important issue raised during the last election. She urged the new Taoiseach “not to squander the opportunity he has been given” to fix the health service once and for all.

The report is scheduled to be debated in the Dáil this Thursday.

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