Reilly in clashes with HSE and VHI over plans

HEALTH Minister James Reilly has clashed with the Health Service Executive, the VHI and his own department as he moves to restore ministerial control of the health service.

Following the resignation of VHI chief Jimmy Tolan yesterday, Dr Reilly admitted it was linked to his plans to break up the state’s largest private health insurer: “He might have had issues with some of the options under consideration.”

Dr Reilly said Goodbody consultants were appointed to review the VHI “in terms of how it will fit in with our [universal] health insurance plans”.

And in a clear rejection of the HSE’s position, the minister said he was dispensing with counting patients on trolleys and would rely on figures supplied by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO).

“We drilled down and examined the figures of both the HSE and the INMO and, in fairness, the INMO figures were closer to the reality than the HSE figures were, and I’m quite prepared to admit that,” Dr Reilly said.

Relations in his department were also under scrutiny yesterday after he openly contradicted part of the contents of a letter signed by department secretary general Michael Scanlan.

Mr Scanlan wrote to the INMO on Thursday saying the terms of reference of a review looking at a decision by the previous administration to phase out pay for fourth-year student nurses remained the same. He said the review would not include a cut already imposed on student nurses undertaking placements in 2011.

The INMO had said it may ballot for industrial action if the terms of reference were not changed.

Dr Reilly told the INMO at the union’s annual conference yesterday: “I want to emphasise that everything will be on the table [for the review], including the terms of reference”.

When asked why his statement was at odds with his department’s top official, Dr Reilly said: “The letter is a letter... I’m very happy to make it very clear that everything is on the table and that I look forward to sitting down with the INMO and reviewing a whole raft of issues.”

INMO general secretary Liam Doran said he welcomed that the minister had “adjusted his position”.

Separately, Dr Reilly said he intended to examine “straight away” reports that Myles Joyce, a colorectal surgeon at University College Hospital Galway (UCHG) was threatening to resign because he was unable to get theatre time.

“A patient that came in with appendicitis was told they were number 30 on the emergency list,” said Anne Burke, a clinical nurse manager in UCHG’s emergency department.


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