Stephen Donnelly: Sláintecare will be the reform Irish health service needs

Stephen Donnelly: Sláintecare will be the reform Irish health service needs
Fianna Fáil's Health Minister Stephen Donnelly. Picture: Gareth Chaney/Collins

The new Minister for Health has said that the Sláintecare plan remains the main route to reform of the healthcare system and that the move towards universal healthcare had to be accelerated in response to the Covid-19 crisis.

Coronavirus had been a complicating factor for a healthcare system already facing major challenges Stephen Donnelly told Newstalk’s Pat Kenny Show.

Many men, women and children were waiting months or years to see a doctor or access a scan, treatment or surgery.

“Covid has created a perfect storm. It means we need a very large amount of additional spending, money that could have been deployed on other parts of the healthcare system.

"The waiting lists have shot way up - the inpatient waiting list since March has gone up by almost a third,” he pointed out.

The infection control measures required because of Covid have meant that capacity is already been reduced.

“People who run MRIs are saying in some case they'll be able to see half the number of patients.”

A number of measures are now needed to address the changes seen in recent months, he said.

“We need to expand the capacity within the HSE - that means running the operating theatres and diagnostic suites longer, getting everything we can out of the primary care centres, really ramping up on telemedicine.”

Mr Donnelly said there was a need to secure short-term capacity from outside the HSE - a strategic partnership with private providers.

He pointed out that there are 11,000 beds in the public system and 20% of them now need to be kept vacant for infection control measures.

Sláintecare needed to accelerate the mission to provide universal healthcare, he said. All ideas needed to be on the table and everyone needed to come together to face the enormous challenges created by the Covid-19 pandemic.

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