Reilly and Shortall to meet over centres row


MINISTER FOR Health James Reilly and Minister of State at the Department of Health Róisín Shortall will meet this week after she strongly restated her position in the row over the siting of primary care centres.

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore yesterday indicated he was satisfied Dr Reilly’s decision to add two towns in his constituency to a priority list of locations based largely on deprivation originally drawn up by Ms Shortall was taken on a “balanced basis”.

Ms Shortall said all decisions must be made in a transparent way after the country had been “profiled” in terms of population and age as well as urban and rural deprivation.

“The guiding concern from my point of view is that resources go where they’re most needed, where there is established health need,” she said.

“We need to identify where are those areas of greatest need and we have very, very good information on that . . . It would be very foolish not to take heed of all of that important data that is available to us.”

She confirmed she had spoken to Dr Reilly yesterday and said they had arranged to meet later in the week.

Mr Gilmore said reports of feuding between the two Ministers were overdone.

“I think some of this can be exaggerated. I think that what we have to be clear about is what we’re trying to do here,” he told reporters in Brussels.

“What we’re trying to do is to reform the health system; as I’ve said it’s a very difficult job.”

Meanwhile, Ms Shortall expressed surprise at Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar’s questioning of the affordability of free GP care. He said the Government was not in a position to bring in free GP care next year or the year after when he appeared on RTÉ’s The Week in Politics programme on Sunday night.

“I was a little bit surprised, I have to say, because we are working to the programme for government. During the course of the negotiations for the formation of a government there was a lot of discussion on the whole area of health policy, and it is set down very clearly in the programme for government,” Ms Shortall said.

She said Ireland was the only country in Europe that did not have universal access to GP care, with 60 per cent of the population paying fees to visit a doctor.

“That makes no sense at all from a health perspective or from an economic perspective because too often people postpone going to their GP because they can’t afford the fees; they don’t have the €55 or €60 necessary to see their GP.”

People who put off having a medical condition treated often ended up having to be admitted to hospital, she said.

During the vote of confidence debate in Dr Reilly last week, Ms Shortall said the lack of priority afforded to producing the free GP care legislation had been very disappointing.

She said allocated funding “must be restored to start this key initiative this year”. Ms Shortall did not mention Dr Reilly by name during her contribution.