Water charges are getting too much attention in the Fine Gael- Fianna Fáil talks on forming a government, Minister for Health Leo Varadkar has said. "I had expected, in the negotiations to form a government, Fianna Fáil might have come up with extensive demands on healthcare,'' he said.
Fianna Fáil, he added, might have said the price of being in power would be a national health service, universal healthcare and that the new government would have to find the millions to make that happen.
The Minister was responding, during a Dáil debate on mental health services to Fianna Fáil TD Robert Troy. The Longford-Westmeath TD had said he shared the frustration of much of the public regarding the lack of pace with which a new government was being formed and the focus that seemed to be on Irish Water. Mental health "I feel that pertinent issues like mental health are not getting the attention they deserve,'' Mr Troy said. Earlier, Mr Varadkar said there had been comments on the timing of various investments and spending this year, giving rise to some money being transferred to services for the elderly, specifically home care packages and community beds.
“As I have said previously, there is nothing to be gained from setting one part of the health service against another part,’’ he said. Mr Varadkar said while mental health services were of great importance, so were the services for the elderly, paediatrics, cancer care, primary care, ambulance services, disability, public health, maternity services and hospitals.
Very low base
Fianna Fáil health spokesman
said the Minister had forgotten to say the 16 per cent increase for mental health services, and the 11 per cent in the case of the overall HSE budget, had come from a very low base. He said the excuse of the difficulty in recruiting professionals had run its time.
Sinn Féin spokesman Caoimhghín Ó Caolain said the Minister had denied the move to reallocate €12 million of the mental health budget this year was a “raid’’ by him. “This is rubbish,’’ said Mr O Caoláin. “It is actually robbery.’’
Labour TD Brendan Ryan said if the money was not being spent on the designated line item provided for in the budget, it could surely have been diverted to other areas of mental health spend.
“This would have sent out a much stronger message about how serious we were about mental health,’’ he said. He said while there was a major problem in all health spending areas, cutting mental health services was a short-sighted and dangerous move.