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Fine Gael and Fianna Fail lay out their health agenda

By Mindo - 24th Jan 2020

Fine Gael’s election health manifesto puts an emphasis on structural reform, while Fianna Fail’s leads with the importance of reducing waiting lists and emergency department overcrowding.

Both the election manifestos of Fine Gael and Fianna Fail were launched on Friday 24 January.

The health section of Fine Gael’s manifesto, which is entitled ‘Implementing Slaintecare’ starts: “Fine Gael has made the decision to reform fundamentally the HSE, bringing power back to local communities through six new regional health areas.”

The manifesto states that by 2025 the party will be investing an additional €5 billion per year in healthcare through Slaintecare implementation.

Fine Gael promises to provide 2,600 extra hospital beds and 4,500 community beds.

The manifesto states it would also provide 80 additional primary care centres and community diagnostic facilities, and develop three elective hospitals in Dublin, Cork and Galway.

It also aims to recruit 3,840 primary care workers, with recruitment of 1,000 by the end of this year, while expanding diagnostics services and increasing to access to radiology services in the community.

In terms of universal access to healthcare, it relates plans to extend free GP care to all children under 18 and extend free GP care to carers in receipt of the carer’s support grant.

Fine Gael also says it would increase the threshold for medical cards for people over 70 back to 2012 levels, and abolish inpatient hospital charges for children.

Between now and 2021, the manifesto states a Fine Gael government would spend more than €2 billion on 250 projects across the country, providing 480 new beds, 58 community nursing units, and new investment in mental health and disability projects in the community.

Fine Gael also says it would increase the number of GP training places to 300 by 2025 and to increase the number of consultants by 100 over the next 10 years.

In the healthcare section of its manifesto, Fianna Fail states the waiting lists in Ireland are the “worst in Europe” and the emergency department (ED) overcrowding is “worse than ever”.

The manifesto argues the Sláintecare report was meant to provide a pathway for the next ten years on how the health services should be delivered.

“Instead, Fine Gael has hidden behind its recommendations,” according to the document.

“It has been over two years since it was published but implementation has been slow.”

The manifesto states it would increase bed capacity and aim for a four-hour target wait for emergency departments and ensure there is an emergency medicine consultant present in EDs on a 24-hour basis.

Prescribed waiting time guarantees are a “prerequisite” for ensuring that waiting lists and waiting times come down, according to the party.

The manifesto says it will double the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NDTF) to €200 million; put the emphasis on reducing waiting times; and ensure that anyone waiting more than six months for a procedure will be able to apply to the NTPF.

On access to care, Fianna Fail says it will expand free GP care on the basis of means in line with Sláintecare’s goals and in alignment with an expansion in capacity.

“We will negotiate with GPs to achieve this on a phased, agreed basis,” according to the manifesto.

It also states it will increase GP training places to 274, and protect rural GP practices by increasing the allowance to €30,000.

The total costs of these general practice proposals is €300 million.

Regarding consultant recruitment, it states negotiate a new contract with consultants that will encompass addressing pay equality for post-2012 entrants as part of a new public sector pay agreement.

Like Fine Gael, it promises to recruit 1,000 consultants, but says this will be done over five years rather than 10. The cost of this recruitment plan will be €223 million.

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