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Shortall calls on Minister to clarify future of medical cards and reconsider UHI


Independent T.D. Róisín Shortall today welcomed attempts by the new Minister for Health to steady his Department and address the uncertainty and damage caused by his predecessor. Responding to Minister Varadkar’s article in today’s Irish Independent, Deputy Shortall echoed the Minister’s praise for the good work carried out by front line staff within the health service, and stated her hope that the dropping of the completely unrealistic plan to scrap the HSE by 2015 would bring greater clarity to those working in our health system.

However, the former Junior Health Minister expressed disappointment at the Minister’s announcement that the Government would not meet its commitment of free GP care for all before the next election, stating;

“This was an essential element of the Coalition’s Programme for Government, and could have been delivered if there had been the political will to do so.

“It is of particular concern that there is no mention of medical cards within today’s article, given how pressing an issue it has become. The Taoiseach gave repeated promises in recent months to ensure that medical cards would be granted on the grounds of medical need. These comments have led to a great deal of expectation among certain groups, especially the parents of seriously ill children and those with life-threatening conditions and the Minister needs to clarify where he stands on this.”

Deputy Shortall continued;

“In addition, the Minister speaks of Universal Primary Care as well as Universal GP Care. If this is a commitment to achieving Universal Primary Care that is welcome. However, it is vital that he outline what services will be provided through this system as access to supports such as public health nurses, occupational therapists, medicines and home help assistance is as important to people as free GP care.

“On the controversial Universal Health Insurance issue, one must ask if today’s article is a delaying tactic or an indication of the Minister’s intention to ditch it. I sincerely hope he takes this opportunity to revisit the issue and consider other funding systems more appropriate to Ireland and which will not entail the privatisation of our health system” said Deputy Shortall.

“It is also a matter of regret that the long-promised Public Health (Alcohol) Bill has been further long-fingered and and will not be published this year, as we had been assured”, concluded Deputy Shortall.