James Reilly – a day in the life

Reilly says services at local hospitals will not be removed ahead of review
EITHNE DONNELLAN, Health Correspondent
MINISTER FOR Health Dr James Reilly has ordered that there be no further withdrawal of services from local hospitals until he reviews proposed changes to how services are organised.
Dr Reilly said yesterday he had issued the instruction through the secretary general of the Department of Health, Michael Scanlan, and the Health Service Executive.

He could not say how long his review would take, but said planned changes would be put in abeyance “until I’ve had a chance to review each case and see what the implications are”. It may turn out, he added, that some of the planned changes are positive but he wants to assess them first.
In an interview with The Irish Times , he said he expected to begin talks with GPs and hospital consultants on new contracts, which will see their remuneration cut, within the next three months.
“We’ve already talked about what’s required for a new GP contract, what’s required for a new consultant contract, what changes will be required in pharmacy, what changes may go across other areas like physiotherapy,” he said.
He claimed his experience as a former negotiator on behalf of GPs would put him at “a distinct advantage” rather than at a disadvantage when facing down former colleagues and vested interests.
“I have a reasonable understanding of how general practice works and how they think and I hope to use that to achieve a deal that represents much better value for the taxpayer, much greater service for the patient but also more job satisfaction for the GPs themselves,” he said.
Dr Reilly said he would make no decisions in relation to nursing homes until there is “clear blue water” between him and his share in a nursing home in Carrick-On-Suir, Co Tipperary.
“I have to be very careful that there is no conflict of interest. Matters are in train with my solicitor to ensure that these issues are all resolved. But I am expediting that as quickly as I can . . . and I certainly won’t engage in meetings in regards to nursing homes.”
In relation to what becomes of his practice in Lusk, Co Dublin, he said “the matter is between solicitors at the moment”.
On the controversy over the decision to locate the new national children’s hospital on the site of Dublin’s Mater hospital, he said he hopes to meet the chairman of the paediatric hospital development board, John Gallagher, next week and to speak to his predecessor Philip Lynch.
Mr Gallagher has maintained the site is suitable, but Mr Lynch claimed it was not and said the hospital could be built more cheaply elsewhere. Dr Reilly said he was reviewing “the facts and figures” before deciding if a review was necessary. Asked what he expected to achieve in his first year in office, he said a catch-up cervical cancer vaccination programme would begin in second-level schools in September, a plan will be in place to deal with “the perfectly predictable surge” in activity in hospital emergency departments each winter, and he said preliminary discussions had taken place on the formulation of a special delivery unit to cut waiting lists.
While he promised there would never again be 569 patients on trolleys, as happened in January, he stressed there was “no quick fix” solution to overcrowding and part of the solution involved ensuring more patients are treated in the community.
Providing free GP care for all within five years is a priority, he said. He also plans, as promised, to abolish prescription charges for medical card holders.
On how it feels to finally be Minister for Health, he said “it depends what time of the day you ask the question … ranging from great to scary”.