SF plans free GP and hospital care

Tue, Feb 15, 2011, 00:00

HEALTH:PROPOSALS TO provide free healthcare for all at GP and hospital level, funded from “general, fair and progressive taxation” and based on medical need alone have been published by Sinn Féin.

The party’s health manifesto, circulated yesterday, also promises to reverse cuts in services at local hospitals, abolish prescription charges for medical card patients, abolish the National Treatment Purchase Fund, cap salaries for hospital consultants and GPs at €150,000 and end plans to build co-located hospitals.

In addition it says, if in government after the election, it will restore direct responsibility for health services to the minister for health rather than the Health Service Executive (HSE) and remove “the top-heavy bureaucracy of the HSE”. It would also cap salaries for health service officials at €100,000 and eliminate managerial and administrative posts deemed surplus to requirements.

Furthermore, it has pledged to build 100 primary care centres, review the decision to build the new national children’s hospital at the Mater site, and to ring-fence 12 per cent of the annual health budget for mental health services.

The party said the health system at present was clearly dysfunctional and must be reformed fundamentally. It wants a new universal public healthcare system but warned that the health insurance models of universal healthcare offered by Fine Gael and Labour “depend on the profit motive of insurance companies who will be given undue control over our health services and over the levels of care that patients will receive”.

Speaking at the launch of the manifesto, its health spokesman Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said it was imperative that the two-tier system that “haunts” our health services be brought to an end.

“We want to see a system that is absolutely accessible and equitable at all levels of healthcare provision,” he said.

A health funding commission would be established to plan the transition to the new system and work out what the real cost of care should be. Mr Ó Caoláin said people were paying way beyond what they needed to pay for drugs for example.

Asked what percentage tax increases would be required to fund free universal care, including dental care, he said: “It doesn’t necessarily of itself require specific increases in taxation. Sinn Féin are committed to taxation increases within our proposals of 48 per cent in relation to income in excess of €100,000 . . . we believe all this can be paid for out of general, fair and progressive taxation. It’s not new tax that we are looking for.”

Mr Ó Caoláin added: “In fact it’s very likely that a health funding commission, having carried out a detailed examination, will be able to demonstrate to many people, particularly even in the middle income area – those paying health insurance – that they will actually have to pay less for a health delivery network and system that they can be proud of and have confidence in”.