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Fianna Fáil wants a new tax... on sugar

The party has unveiled its long-awaited health policy today.

Updated 12.30pm 

Fianna Fail 607 copy Thomas Byrne, Colm Keaveney, Billy Kelleher and Jack Chambers at the launch of Fianna Fáil's health policy in Dublin today. Source: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

FIANNA FÁIL HAS proposed €450.8 million in extra health spending annually and wants to restore responsibility for the budget to the HSE.

The party has formally launched its long-awaited health policy today with much of it having already leaked in recent days.

Around €322.8 million of the proposed increase in spending would come from general taxation, with the balance, €128 million, from revenue raising measures including reductions in the drugs budget and use of agency staff.

The plan would be implemented if the party is returned to government after the next election.

Proposals include a 20% sugar tax, which the party says would generate €58 million every year.

It is also proposing a ban on fatty foods being advertised before 9pm, and the phasing out of alcohol companies’ sponsorship of sporting events over five years.

Under Fianna Fáil, an Office of Alcohol Control would be established which would “aim to holistically address the diverse drivers and consequences of harmful alcohol consumption in Ireland”.

Health spokesperson Billy Kelleher also outlined plans to abolish the current government’s plans for Universal Health Insurance, arguing that it will put insurance companies in charge of services that could then be closed in some areas.

The current prescription charge of €2.50 will also be abolished over a two year period.

The Health Service Executive, which was established when Micheál Martin was health minister, will not be abolished – as the current government has committed to eventually doing.

Instead responsibility for the health budget will be returned to the agency from the Department of Health. Kelleher said the government had “completely undermined” the HSE board and is currently using it as “a halfway house”.

The policy document also calls for a €120 million increase in the primary care budget over five years and to reactivate the National Treatment Purchase Fund to tackle hospital waiting lists, at a cost of €50 million.

“I am setting an ultimate target that all patients who need hospital treatment will get it within the internationally accepted benchmark of six months,” Kelleher said.

The party also says the GP contract should be renegotiated with doctors taken on as employees of the HSE rather than self-employed contractors.

These contracts would require doctors to be available to work over a seven day period on a rotating basis.

State of the Nation: Will Micheál v Gerry be the real battle at the next election?

Read: This TD thinks the HSE is lying about trying to recruit mental health staff

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Hugh O'Connell

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