FG pledges health service reform

Mon, Apr 27, 2009, 01:00

Fine Gael has promised to reform the health service within five years with plans to cut waiting lists and eliminate the two-tier system by introducing a mandatory universal health insurance scheme.

Under the new Faircare health plan, the party has pledged to implement a new system under which hospitals are paid for the number of patients they treat, develop new primary care centres to allow people to be treated in their communities, and reduce waiting times for a fraction of the cost currently paid out by the National Treatment Payment Fund.

Fine Gael’s health spokesman Dr James Reilly criticised the current Government for the state of the health system.

"Over the last 10 years the health service has become a shambles. We regularly have over 350 people on trolleys in A&E, waiting lists that go on for months, outpatient waiting lists that go on for years and cancelled operations across the country," he said.

"Our health service is a fiasco, getting ever worse under the incompetent management of this Government."

The party said it will develop new primary care centres in modern purpose built premises where healthcare professionals will treat patients free of charge and have access to diagnostic tools such as x-ray, ultrasound and endoscopy.

Mr Reilly said the mandatory health insurance would cover every man, woman and child will be insured, with some fully subsidised and others partially subsidised by the Government. The budget would follow the patient, he said.

“Patients will no longer be seen as ‘costs’ to the health service, but as sources of ‘income’,” he said.

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny said the party had looked at the Dutch health system for inspiration.

“For the last 10 years the Government’s answer to any problem in the health service was to throw taxpayers’ money at it. Billions were wasted and the health service was never reformed in any fundamental way. As a result, Ireland’s health system is now ranked 24th in Europe in terms of value for money,” he said.

In contrast, Mr Kenny said the Netherlands spends slightly more than Ireland per capita, but waiting lists are minimal, and the country is ranked as number one in Europe for health.

“Our approach is built around the patient, rewarding performance from doctors and hospitals, and ensuring that there will no longer be a two-tier health system,” he said.

“There will be some who will say that we cannot afford major reforms at a time of recession. To them I say: as budgets come under more pressure we can't afford not to reform our €16 billion a year health system.”