Elaine Loughlin, political reporter
Health Minister Leo Varadkar has criticised the “fantasy politics” being put forward on health from both Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin.
Speaking this morning at Fine Gael’s Ard Fheis Mr Varadkar hit out at the opposition parties and told delegates that their job is to remind the public of the truth.
The Health Minister said: “Our opponents will talk a lot about health over the next few weeks but that’s all it is. It’s easy for them because they never expect or want to have to implement their health proposals. Fantasy politics from the nightmare team of Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil.”
Motions on obesity including introducing a sugar tax, extending free GP care and increasing supports to mental health services were put forward at the Ard Fhies this morning which is being held in Dublin’s City West Hotel.
Highlighting the positive changes implemented in health during the current government Mr Varadkar said: “Sinn Féin’s talk about hiring more staff but capping consultant salaries and raising taxes will make recruitment impossible.
“Fianna Fáil proposes to stop reform and keep the HSE which despite some successes has overall proved too large and cumbersome to effectively run and manage the health service.
He added: “Delegates, it’s our job to remind them and the public of the truth. Sinn Féin ran away from health. Having held the post in the first Northern Ireland Executive when the North had the longest waiting times in Europe, they have avoided it like the plague ever since leaving it to the DUP.
“Fianna Fáil which characterised health as Angola was so afraid of being responsible for it that they let Mary Harney stay there as an independent long as her party had disintegrated.”
Mr Varadkar said health is not a “bottomless pit” adding that the “money does not go into a black hole”.
He said that cancer patients are more than ever likely to beat the disease, those that suffer heart attacks can be home within days and stoke victims are now more likely to survive and much less likely to be disabled than ever before.
“We will introduce the next phases of universal healthcare in a second term, including free GP care for all children, a new scheme to lower the cost of medicines, a new focus on managing chronic disease in the community rather than in hospitals and enhanced hone care provision to keep people in their own homes for longer,” the minister said.
However, Fianna Fáil's Timmy Dooley said it was difficult to take Minister Leo Varadkar’s “lectures on health” seriously given the state of chaos in Emergency Departments across the country.
He said: “Minister Varadkar promised a hundred new beds to ease the crisis. However, these still have not been delivered. He says he can’t get the staff, but why did he make the promise if he couldn’t deliver on it?
“The truth is that the situation in our Emergency Department’s is just as bad, if not worse, as it was this time last year.
“However this doesn’t seem to have stopped Minister Varadkar from pontificating on healthcare this weekend and telling us how great a job he is doing,” Mr Dooley said