Health Minister James Reilly has accused tobacco companies of “targeting” the young in a bid to get teenagers to take up smoking.
Outlining planned health reforms, he also pledged that Ireland could have one of the best health services in the world, but not before 2016. He also said reports that he had forced health insurers to hike up prices for younger consumers following a request from the VHI was “grossly misleading”.
The deputy Fine Gael leader outlined his plans for reform to the audience at the MacGill summer school in Donegal. A small group of pro-life protesters with placards were outside the hall in Glenties, Donegal, as the minister arrived.
He said he wanted a smoke-free Ireland and tobacco firms were preying on young people in a bid to get them to take up smoking.
“All of the evidence suggests if you haven’t smoked by the age of 21 you are very unlikely to start. Tobacco companies know this; that’s why they target our young.”
He said tobacco firms were worried about the use of plain packaging for cigarettes, because “it worked”. The Coalition is examining introducing the measure here.
Dr Reilly said that if the next generation could be protected from smoking, that it would be “gone in another generation’s time”.
He outlined the reorganisation of all of Ireland’s adult public hospitals, saying they would be overseen in six groups and over time become self-governing trusts.
“It will be the biggest change in how our hospitals are managed since the foundation of the State.”
He pledged that the health service would publish on the internet individual consultants’ waiting lists, morbidity and mortality figures.
Plans for a new patient safety agency, to start later this year, were also mentioned. This will be proceeded by a special advisory group on safety made up of experts from here and abroad.
Mr Reilly revealed that children in Ireland would be first to get free GP care, hopefully before 2016. “I do not want any parent to be in a position where they have to decide between buying the groceries and bringing their child to the doctor.”
He pledged that Ireland could have one of the best health services in the world, but not before 2016 or the next government.
“Not today maybe. Not by 2016. But certainly in the next term of government and before the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the State.”
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