Irish health service dominated by vested interests, says Shortall

Dáil debates committee report that sets out 10-year blueprint for the health system

Social Democrats TD Róisín Shortall told the Dáil “attempts to reform our dysfunctional system have been stymied by those who care little about equity and who put private interests ahead of the public interest”. Photograph:  Alan Betson

Social Democrats TD Róisín Shortall told the Dáil “attempts to reform our dysfunctional system have been stymied by those who care little about equity and who put private interests ahead of the public interest”. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

The Irish health service is very much dominated by vested interests, Social Democrats TD Róisín Shortall has said.

“Going back as far as the Mother and Child Scheme of the 1950s, proper public health services have been blocked by those who see healthcare as a commodity from which to gain profits,’’ she added.

Ms Shortall was speaking during a Dáil debate on the report of the Oireachtas Committee on the Future of Healthcare, which she chaired.

The report has set out a 10-year blueprint for the health system.

Its proposals include a new general health card, or Carda Slainte, to be rolled out for the entire population over five years and it will entitle holders to a broad range of treatments and medicines at low cost or for free.

Ms Shortall said the reality was the weaker the public system the more the private system benefited.

“And the reverse also applies – the better the public health system, the less opportunity there is for profiteering,’’ she added.

“That is why attempts to reform our dysfunctional system have been stymied by those who care little about equity and who put private interests ahead of the public interest.’’

Ms Shortall said she was concerned about the mixed messages coming from the Government in respect of its response.

While Minister for Health Simon Harris was sounding positive, the Government press office seemed to be briefing negatively, she added.

Partially implement

She said a report in The Irish Times had said the Minister had signalled his intention to only partially implement the report.

Mr Harris said he hoped to bring “detailed analysis and proposals to Government’’ on the basis of the report, having heard contributions from members of the House.

“I remain positive that we can make a real difference to the lives of individual patients and the health system as a whole and I have no doubt that the report will be an essential reference point for all governments and parties in the fundamental reform of our health services over the next decade,’’ he added.

Mr Harris said committee members had engaged in an open, respectful and positive approach to discussions and understood the prize of achieving a consensus position.

“It behoves us all to continue in this spirit and do our utmost to act on the vision and strategic direction set out by the committee,’’ he added.

Mr Harris said the health system was fractured, an outdated model of care that was unfit for purpose, with chronic access issues and growing sustainability concerns as the State faced into a period of significant population ageing.

“These problems have been persisting for some years now and have, unfortunately, led to a real lack of public confidence in elements of our health service, particularly on the issue of access,’’ he added.