FINE Gael leader Enda Kenny last night pledged to copy the Dutch system of universal health insurance in order to radically reduce waiting lists.
In his opening address to the party’s Ard Fheis in Dublin, Mr Kenny warned the country could not afford to neglect its sick, despite the demands of the economic crisis.
He pledged to bring in a combination of the Canadian and Dutch systems of comprehensive health payments where medical costs are fully or partly subsidised for all citizens by the state.
“The Netherlands spends only slightly more than us on healthcare on a per capita basis, but has no waiting lists and is ranked number one in Europe for health.
“Our health reform programme represents the most radical change in the Irish health system since its establishment. There will be some who will say that we cannot afford such major reforms in time of recession, to them I say — we cannot afford not to reform the health system.
“As health budgets come under more and more pressure it is even more important that we make the system as fair and efficient as possible,” he told delegates.
Fine Gael claimed the reforms would cut health costs by €2 billion over time.
Mr Kenny accused the present Government of “throwing billions of euro” at the health service without a clear strategy for how the money could be best spent.
“In modern Ireland, A&Es have become trolley parks, human warehouses for the sick, the injured and the frail. They, and 40,000 people on waiting lists, are a grim testament to the failure of this Government to build a health service that works.”
After his address, Mr Kenny moved to draw a line under his spat with European spokeswoman Lucinda Creighton, kissing her on the cheek to loud applause.
Ms Creighton had already tried to laugh off their falling out, insisting there “was nothing to patch up” between them after a disagreement at a recent parliamentary party meeting.
Mr Kenny will use his televised address tonight to position the party ahead of next week’s budget and June’s crunch Euro, local and Dáil by-elections.
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