Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall TD has strongly questioned the government’s commitment to fully implement Sláintecare, the fully costed ten-year health reform plan put forward by a cross-party Oireachtas committee.
Speaking following a Dáil debate on the Sláintecare plan today, Deputy Shortall said she and other members of the Oireachtas committee which produced the Sláintecare report last May are seeking an urgent meeting with the Minister for Health to discuss its progress:
“There are growing concerns among members of the cross-party Oireachtas committee that the government, despite its fine words, isn’t fully committed to implementing the plan in full.
“Sláintecare is a once in a life time opportunity to do something really important in this country and it should be grasped with both hands by government. For the first time we have a cross-party consensus on the way forward in relation to health reform – health must not continue to be treated as political football.”
Deputy Shortall added:
“Health care reform is this country has always been held back by vested interests. What’s now needed is political leadership and tangible progress that shows the government is actually committed to putting patients first and ending the dysfunction in our health system. We won’t get fundamental reform and change without upsetting some interests and the government needs to be courageous and rise to the challenge now.
“Sláintecare was published last May and since then I have heard many fine words from Minister for Health Simon Harris and the Taoiseach. But so far progress in implementing the Sláintecare roadmap has been painfully slow. This leaves me with very serious concerns that the government intends to cherry pick this strategy rather than implementing it in full.
“The separation of public health system from private interests is fundamental if we are to have a health service that treats people equally, based on their medical needs, rather than their ability to pay.
“In order to get the health system we deserve, the government has to show its mettle and face down vested interests resisting these reforms, including the Irish Hospital Consultants Association, the insurance and pharmaceutical industries, and private hospitals. It’s not clear at all to me that the government has the resolve to do this in the interests of fairness and equity.
“Sláintecare proposed the setting up of an independent and fully resourced Implementation Office outside of the Department of Health – this is vital to avoid departmental ‘capture’. I met with the Taoiseach last August and he assured me his officials were finalising the job specifications to recruit a professional to head up this office.
“Twice since then I have asked the Minister for Health about progress, and I have received the same reply that the recruitment process was in hand. At this stage you’d have to ask ‘what’s holding it up?’
“Is the Department of Health itself getting in the way of much needed reform? The Taoiseach at the weekend spoke about implementing health reforms based on Sláintecare. This is an all or nothing strategy – it can’t be cherry picked and it must not be watered down.”