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Minister for Health must come clean over Sláintecare health plan

Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall TD has said the Minister for Health must come clean about the government’s commitment to the Sláintecare health reform plan which has cross-party support.

Deputy Shortall, who chaired the Oireachtas committee which produced Sláintecare 14 months ago, said the recent drip-feeds and leaks from government amount to messing and need to cease.

“Deputy Shortall said:

“Since the Slaintecare plan was published 14 months ago with unprecedented cross-party support, the Minister for Health’s mantra has been that the government response is ‘coming shortly’.

“But instead of coming clean and publishing its detailed implementation strategy, this past week we have seen a drip-feed of information from the Taoiseach and senior Ministers which seems to be aimed at dampening down expectations that the Sláintecare reforms will be delivered and funded as envisaged.

“Today we learned from leaked cabinet papers that free GP care for all will not now be phased in over the next five years as set out in Sláintecare.  It appears that the Government is not prepared to provide the necessary funding for expanded community services and a new GP contract which are critical to the proposed health reforms.

“Our health service is in a state of near permanent crisis, with trolley numbers and hospital waiting lists reaching new peaks on a monthly basis.  Unless we change the way services are provided, this crisis is likely to continue.”

Deputy Shortall added:

“The Taoiseach and the Minister for Finance need to accept that the reform programme will need a dedicated funding stream of its own, and if they are serious about reform and improving things for patients, this funding must be provided in this year’s budget.

“Sláintecare is a well considered plan to radically overhaul how we deliver health services to all the population, with a switch away from acute hospitals towards more and better provision of primary care at community level by GPs, nurses and other healthcare staff. The Minister for Health needs to stop the procrastination and publish his implementation strategy and a detailed timetable for all the reforms set out in the plan.”