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Taoiseach | Update on most recent Cabinet Committee on Health meeting

To ask the Taoiseach when the most recent meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Health took place.
                                                                                          – Bernard J. Durkan.



A Cheann Comhairle, I propose to take Questions 1 to 11 together.

The Cabinet Committee on Health met yesterday and is due to meet again soon.

In addition to the meetings of the full Cabinet and of Cabinet committees, I meet Ministers on an individual basis to focus on different issues. I meet regularly with the Minister for Health to discuss progress and challenges in the area of Health, including the Sláintecare Reform Programme.

The primary aim in 2023 is to improve access, outcomes and affordability for patients in line with Sláintecare principles.

We are committed to expanding the core capacity of our acute hospitals – with more health professionals and more acute hospital beds. Over the past three years we have added nearly 1,000 hospital beds and over 360 community beds, with further additional beds planned for 2023 and 2024.

We have increased the total public health sector workforce by approximately 18,000 since the beginning of 2020 and aim to increase our workforce by an additional 6,000 this year.

There is a strong pipeline of capital projects, including several new hospitals and significant new facilities for existing hospitals.

Our multi-annual approach to reducing and reforming waiting lists resulted in an overall reduction in the number of patients exceeding the maximum Sláintecare waiting time, that is, roughly three months, by 11% in 2022.

The Waiting List Action Plan for 2023 was published on 7 March. For 2023, the Government has allocated €443 million to build on the work already done, with a projected reduction of just over 10% in waiting lists by year end.

This includes €123 million on a recurrent basis for the HSE to introduce modernised care pathways. €80 million has been allocated to various primary care and community care initiatives.

The Enhanced Community Care programme continues at a more local level. This programme, which is investing €240 million in community health services, is easing pressure on hospitals and in more acute settings. In the first full year post-implementation, it is projected that Community Healthcare Networks and Community Specialist Teams will enable between 16,000 and 21,000 patients avoid an ED attendance.

Work is ongoing on the establishment of six new regional health areas and elective care centres in Dublin, Cork and Galway, as well as surgical hubs in the interim.

We are also facilitating better access to affordable, high-quality healthcare for people at a time when the cost-of-living crisis is affecting everyone.

Amongst other actions to increase eligibility and reduce costs, last year we removed in patient charges for under-16s and this year we are removing them for all patients.

We are also widening the eligibility for the GP card which will allow many thousands more people to be covered.

The Drug Payment Scheme threshold was reduced to €80 from 1 March 2022.

Additional eligibility initiatives include:

  • €10 million for access to IVF treatments;
  • the expansion of the entitlement to free contraception to women aged 26-30; and
  • €5 million for oral healthcare for children up to seven years of age.

Our health service has its challenges. This was evident during the difficult winter period. But our health system has responded and expanded dramatically in recent years. We are treating more people with better outcomes than ever before.

Our life expectancy is continuing to increase and is above international averages. We continue to reduce mortality rates for stroke and certain cancers, and report positive trends in preventative health.

We will continue to advance these reforms under Sláintecare in 2023.




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