Troika not after medical card, says Reilly


THE MEDICAL card scheme and other State-provided free health service entitlements are not under threat from the EU-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank troika, Minister for Health James Reilly said yesterday.

Speaking after a healthcare conference in Dublin, Dr Reilly said his understanding was that the IMF had made inquiries about the medical card scheme and how it operated. “There has been no suggestion of anything else,” he said.

Dr Reilly was speaking to reporters at the National Health Conference at the national convention centre. At the event, a health adviser to the IMF, Prof Peter Smith of the Imperial College in London, said that to spend public funds to best effect, it might be necessary to omit treatments from State schemes that were not cost-effective.

Dr Reilly said afterwards it was still the Government’s goal to deliver free GP care at the point of delivery to the entire population.

“We will achieve this on a phased basis supporting the sector to prepare for this major initiative, and allowing time to deal with issues, such as GP workforce levels and registration.”

He said free GP cover would be extended to those under the long-term illness scheme. Primary legislation would be required to allow this measure to be put in place.

Dr Reilly also said a new national leadership training programme was to be rolled out for staff in the health service.

“This programme will take cohorts of GPs, consultants, nurse leaders and managers through a structured development programme to instil a philosophy of quality and patient-centredness and deliver practical approaches, tools and techniques to transform service delivery.

“The programme has been successfully piloted and we will now roll it out across the country over the next three years. It is my aim that every senior clinical or managerial leader will go through this course by the end of 2014, and that being a graduate of this programme will become a requirement of everyone seeking a leadership position from 2013 onwards.”

Dr Reilly also said new national standards in the health service, which he hoped to approve before the summer, would be reinforced by legislation for the licensing of public and private healthcare providers.

Chief executive of insurance company Aviva Seán Egan called on Dr Reilly to allow health insurers to negotiate directly with public hospitals on bed charges.

He also urged that the consumer protection code be applied to the largest health insurer, the VHI. The current approach, he said, where the Minister set bed charges for public hospitals, was a contributory factor to rising health insurance premiums.

Mr Egan said direct negotiations between insurers and hospitals would lead to savings which could be passed on to insurance customers. He said this proposal was in line with the Minister’s own universal health insurance policy.

On Wednesday, the VHI also proposed that insurers negotiate bed charges directly with hospitals. The conference is organised by Investnet and run annually with the Independent Hospital Association of Ireland and a panel of leading industry advisers.