The €4bn in additional spending given to the health service to fight the Covid-19 pandemic “should be retained” permanently, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar will tell the Fine Gael ard fheis this evening.
Thehas confirmed that, in his keynote address, Mr Varadkar will state that the increased manpower, resources, and now €22bn-a-year budget provided to the health service to respond to the crisis should not be cut back as is due to happen to other Covid spending.
“I believe the additional staff, resources, and billions in extra funding that we have provided to the health service to respond to the emergency should be retained and redeployed," he will say.
Fianna Fáil’s Michael McGrath, the public expenditure and reform minister, has made clear that at least €8bn in Covid-related spending needs to be eliminated this year as part of his plan to rebalance the budget within the lifetime of the Government.
Mr Varadkar will also say that Fine Gael’s ambition is to build a public health service that can, by 2030, be ranked among the best internationally.
“We must implement the Sláintecare promise of affordable healthcare for all by reducing out-of-pocket expenses for medicines and hospital charges and expanding medical card eligibility.
One senior Fianna Fáil source pointed out that Mr Varadkar will “merely be following the Taoiseach’s lead” in committing to the increased health spending.
Mr Varadkar will also say the definition of an essential worker will have to change, saying many of those are on low pay and have poor terms and conditions.
“We have redefined essential workers. Not just nurses and doctors, gardaí and paramedics, but also supermarket workers, drivers, cleaners, and people working in food production and service, many of whom are on low pay and have poor terms and conditions," Mr Varadkar will say in his televised address.
“I believe a legacy of the pandemic must be better pay, terms and conditions for all workers, public and private sector."