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Reilly: Free GP care for under 5s still on track

The Health Minister added that he did not do this job to be popular.

Health Minister James Reilly
Health Minister James Reilly
Image: Niall Carson/PA Wire

MINISTER FOR HEALTH Dr James Reilly has said that the plan for free GP care for under 5s is still on track – despite the fact it does not have cabinet approval yet.

The Minister spoke to Sean O’Rourke on RTÉ Radio One this morning about the HSE and said that it is “not true” to say that the HSE had “shot the runways”, in the presenter’s words, by €300 million this year.

He said that the HSE has a much greater grip on the financial systems in the department and has brought in a financial reform board.

He pointed out that the health budget has reduced in real terms by nearly 20 per cent, while staff levels have fallen by 10 per cent and the Irish population has grown by 8 per cent over the last number of years.

Reilly said that there had been a huge amount of progress made regarding the overrun in medical card and other community drug schemes. “We are only a few million, single digits off target now, and progress is accelerating so a great job has been done,” he said.

While he acknowledged that some hospitals are having difficulties meeting budget targets, the HSE is there to support them.

Regarding the €60 million that was promised from legislation on private insurance, and is not available until the legislation is in place, he said that the HSE will get the money “some other way”.

Budgets

Asked would the HSE be short by the end of year, he said that he could not give a figure now.

The HSE put in a figure at the beginning of the year of €190m but was allocated 90m. It had expected a 1 per cent demand but ended up having 2 per cent demand, said Reilly.

He said that they will have the number of people on waiting lists for over 12 months down by the end of the year “by a major way”.

Free GP care

On free GP care for under 5s, he said that he and Minister of State Alex White are “100 per cent behind” the idea, but government and cabinet haven’t signed off on it yet. It will cost around €40million plus for the scheme, he said.

On medical cards, Minister Reilly said there has been no real change in the discretionary medical card assessment. He said that over 40pc of the population is covered by the cards.

On the subject of the swine flu vaccine and the children who developed narcolepsy after getting it, he said he was “very sorry that they feel they have been left high and dry” after the government promised supports, and that if someone feels they haven’t been given the supports, he will find out what happened.

He also said there ought to be a no-fault compensation scheme in place for people who suffer as a result of vaccine administration.

Reilly said he is committed to GP care for all without cost by 2016.

He said that the HSE had been in talks with consultants about reducing fees, and also with the Vhi on this issue.

In my view if it takes only 16 per cent of the time to perform the procedure, the reduction in pay ought to be a hell of a lot more than 20 per cent and it will be.

The Minister said he has “delivered a lot of what we promised” and when it comes to the elections he will let people judge the health service they had and the health service they have now.

He said he has “more passion for it now than when I came in” for his job.

“I expect to be castigated from a height – I didn’t do this job to be popular,” said Reilly.

“Appalling”

Dr Ray Walley, Chairman of the GP Committee of the IMO, said that the Ministers’ approach to free GP care for under 5s was “appalling”.

He said that recently Minister Reilly and Minister White have “repeatedly raised hopes of a dramatic extension of free GP care for young people yet neither has made any attempt to engage with the GPs who they expect to provide this service”.

He accused the Minister of not being serious about policy and initiative.

Dr Walley said that the extension of free GP care for any section of the population required careful planning and resourcing:

So far there is no sign of any interest by the Government in even discussing the issues involved with GPs which suggests they have little expectation of actually implementing the initiative.

Read: Eilís Hardiman handed the task of integrating three children’s hospitals>

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