Leo Varadkar: ‘Money is not the answer for health’

Extra funds will not tackle waiting lists, the trolley crisis and other problems crippling the health service — better management is needed the Taoiseach says.

Leo Varadkar has told the Dáil the HSE budget is “increasing faster than the population is growing or ageing” and that investing more funds is not the answer.

His comments come after it emerged that the HSE has privately warned the Government that the financial shortfall for this year could be up to €881m.

Mr Varadkar said: “The fundamental problem and crisis that affects our health service, in my view, is not solely lack of money or lack of resources. It is much more about how money is spent and how resources are deployed, and monetising all problems does not actually bring us any closer to a solution.”

Mr Varadkar was responding to questioning from Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, who said pay agreements will absorb the bulk of the increased expenditure in 2018.

“There will be little for additional services,” said Mr Martin.

“The elderly will continue to suffer, the disabled will still be shortchanged in respect of access to therapies and services, the acute hospitals will remain under intense pressures, notwithstanding the experiences of December and January, and primary and community care will remain neglected.”

Mr Martin accused the Taoiseach of “commentating on the health service since he was Minister for Health, with little outcome”.

However, pointing to the fact that €15bn has been allocated to the health sector his year — the largest budget in the history of the State — Mr Varadkar said that, of course, more money would mean more staff and resources.

“We already have record numbers of doctors, almost 10,000, working in our public health service,” said the Taoiseach. “However, those extra staff and extra beds, and all of the extra money, will not make a difference unless we have better management, proper clinical leadership, real accountability and proper responsibility from those charged with running and managing our health service. I absolutely accept it is the Government’s responsibility to make all of this happen.”

Separately Sinn Féin raised the talks around re- establishing the Northern Ireland Assembly, which begin in Belfast today.

Mr Adams drew attention to rights being denied in the North — which Sinn Féin have cited as major obstacles in negotiations — including marriage equality and recognition of the Irish language.

Mr Varadkar said the best way to gain rights is not having it dictated from Dublin or London but through the parties elected to represent the people of Northern Ireland coming together to form an administration, which the Taoiseach said he hopes will happen.

“While I firmly agree that rights are important, and Sinn Féin has put rights at the top of its list of priorities, there are other important matters as well. Brexit is one example,” he said.

“It is essential that there is a Northern Ireland voice on Brexit as we enter into the talks on the withdrawal agreement and the agreement that will set out the new relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union.”

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