Minutes of meeting with Minister of State for Health

Minutes of meeting with Minister of State for Health, Ms. Kathleen Lynch, T.D., Dail Eireann. Thursday, 5/3/2015.

Present: Kathleen Lynch, T.D., Ms. Mairead Creed, John Hartigan, Michael Casey, Harry Rose.

1. John extended an invitation to the Minister to open our AGM on 16/4/2015 in Wynn’s Hotel. She thanked John and said she would have to check her diary etc. but would if at all possible and requested a copy of the agenda be forwarded to Ms. Creed.

2. Health Cover. The Minister stated that most over 70s had free GP cards and the Governments intention was to make this universal as the cost was not that great. The budget for this was €37M overall with €25M. going to pay for the under 6s and the balance will pay to extend the scheme to all over 70s. The cost was not as much as anticipated.

3. Fair Deal Scheme. Using figures to forecast this scheme would make it untenable. However the Minister said she wanted a permanent solution to this problem. She said it was not all about long stay care but an alternative was required. She wanted an integrated solution that included the Home Care Package, Physiotherapy Care, Step Down facilities (such as Mount Carmel) and an understanding about the Fair Deal difficulty but a positive policy that will deal with the myriad of issues/problems.

4. Universal Health Insurance. The Minister stated that there was a shortage of 250 consultants. That there was not enough capacity in the system at present and the Government had stepped back from implementing it at present. She said the Govt. wanted to get the structure in first and that change would be incremental and gradually improved. He said the GP system was very good regardless of what people had (medical card holders, paying public or other scheme members). The proposed scheme should not and would not impinge on existing schemes or insurance packages that people had. More consultants were needed beyond the 250 shortfall and throughput facilities had to be put in place first. The plan was too ambitious. Costs would need to be controlled re pharmaceuticals and other matters and the Dutch model was not as good as originally thought and that they were looking at a hybrid system for Ireland but it was some way down the road before it was introduced.

5. Positive Ageing Strategy. The Minister spoke of various packages such as one for Dementia and Health Ireland. She said their emphasis was on a whole care package that included prevention and integrating/dovetailing services. She spoke of communities and families having the confidence to do things for themselves with assistance from the above packages. She gave details of an initiative in conjunction with Atlantic Philanthropies for Healthy and Positive Ageing. The initiative would measure various matters for the first time with the HSE, DOH and Age Ireland as participants (these exist for children and youths but not older people). The Dept. had supported TILDA – which the NFPA had included in one of its earlier conferences and were now supporting TILDA 2 dealing with brain injured people.

6. Security. We instanced how older people were increasingly succumbing to con men and women and break ins. We felt it was due to lack of policing and more Gardai were required. The Minister felt that more Gardai on the beat was not the answer. We agreed that beat Gardai was not the answer but the use of Community Gardai and the use of technology such as text alerts was the way forward. We raised the issue of cuts in the landline phone allowance and their effects on alarms systems and the larger effect in isolated rural areas. While we all regretted the taking advantage of gullible and elderly persons to their financial detriment we agreed the only method of combating this was to make people aware of the problems and warn them to be vigilant.

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