By Pat Kelly.
Two high-profile mental health reform advocates have called for details on the proposed introduction of universal health insurance (UHI) to be released in order for healthcare professionals to engage in more meaningful debate on the subject.
Dr John Hillery, Consultant Psychiatrist and former President of the Medical Council, and Maurice O’Connell, CEO of the Alzheimer Society of Ireland, were both on the panel of the recent St Patrick’s University Hospital Founder’s Day Forum.
The Forum’s panel debated the issue of whether UHI would improve the lot of patients with mental health difficulties. “It was difficult for us to nail down exactly what we were talking about because the Minister hasn’t produced any documentation on it yet,” Dr Hillery explained to IMT. “One of the messages from the Forum… is that we actually need to know what we are talking about, in order that we can talk about it ourselves.”
Delegates at a recent UCC forum — ‘A New Healthcare System: More Competition, More Value?’ — also found themselves attempting to debate the merits of UHI and healthcare reform without any indications on how the system will be introduced and implemented.
“The Minister is to be congratulated for coming out with this idea, but now we need more — we need to know what the meat is behind the idea,” said Dr Hillery.
Speaking after the event, O’Connell told IMT: “Even though some people are telling us that the Dutch model is probably the best one to follow, nobody has really explored that deeply enough, and if they have, they certainly haven’t communicated that to the masses.”
O’Connell added: “There won’t be any buy-in if there isn’t a debate on UHI, therefore there needs to be some direction around what a UHI programme would look like. What I would be afraid of is that we end up with a fait accompli and that any advances that we have made in the present system would be lost in the name of equity. So the Government has a responsibility to provide some kind of direction and open up the discussion in order to get the best kind of UHI we need for this country.”