The pending 7% increase in Vhi private health insurance, on top of two previous hikes in March and October last year, is indicative of the fact that Ireland’s national health system is ailing, Labour leader Ivana Bacik has said.
She told the Dáil that 2.4 million people in Ireland have health insurance policies, compared with 22% in Britain and just 15% in Spain, adding that for far too long there has been an over reliance on the private health market to counter problems in public health.
Ms Bacik said the failure to adequately invest in public health saps public confidence in the system, something compounded by the far too slow roll out of the Government’s vaunted Sláintecare reform programme.
She called on the Government to end the HSE recruitment embargo, address the shortfall of nurses and increase the pay for those healthcare workers in the community and voluntary sector.
In reply, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said he accepted that the pending hike in Vhi rates was a “real concern”.
However, he said the main reason for hikes across the private health sector is a “huge increase in demand”, for example the number over 75s attending emergency care has increased by 23%.
Mr Ryan said there has been significant investment in the health care system, stating that since the year 2000, there has been an additional 26,000 people employed in the health service.
He contended that investment is starting to be seen in significant improvements in health service.
While he accepted there were issues in the area of disability, he said that life expectancy had increased by five years over the past decade or decade and a half.
He described that outcome as “phenomenal” and proved that that Ireland has one of the best health systems in the world.