23rd January 2015
By Tom Collins
Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Health Billy Kelleher has accused the Health Minister of launching another PR campaign rather than coming up with tangible measures to tackle the real problems facing our health service. On the very morning when we learn that the HSE has launched an investigation into serious deficiencies in maternity care at Portiuncula Hospital in Ballinasloe, Minister Leo Varadkar chooses to relaunch the UHI kite and reheat a series of vague promises.
Deputy Kelleher commented, “The ‘priorities’ outlined by Minister Varadkar this morning appear to be a straightforward attempt to dampen expectations while at the same time give the appearance that he’s finally beginning to take some control of his department. However, read between the lines, and these “priorities” are vague at best, with few deadlines or targets.
“One target he has confirmed is that waiting times are now expected to rocket from 8 months to 18 months. He talks about strengthening patient safety, but is forecasting spiralling waiting times. He says he wants to improve access to care but resorts to relaunching the discredited compulsory health insurance policy, which will put an extra financial burden on already hard pressed families.
“Minister Varadkar tells us he’s up for the challenge. Let’s hope the patients are up for it too. It is absolutely clear from today that the Minister’s key goal in Health is to keep his head down until the General Election and then hope to get out of the Department. In the interim he hopes to spin his way along, getting plaudits for speaking frankly while killing expectations of improvements in our health service.
“The next election is at the very most 15 months away. Under the Minister’s watch, there are people on waiting lists now who will still not have been treated by the time the people go to the ballot boxes. When you read the fine print of today’s PR, it is clear there are no plans to speed up that process”.