Leo Varadkar says that the HSE is unfit for purpose in current form
The Taoiseach outlined his thoughts when pressed on the current state of the Health Service Executive.
Leo Varadkar was Ryan Tubridy's guest on Friday night's edition of The Late Late Show, where he was faced with some difficult subjects currently impacting the nation.
When the subject of health and the trolly crisis came up, Varadkar eventually underlined that the current Irish health system is in need of major reform.
Asked directly if the Health Service Executive is "fit for purpose", the Taoiseach initially highlighted "a lot of really good people" who work there before Tubridy repeated the question.
"It's not the best structure to provide our health services," offered Varadkar before Tubridy asked his question for a third time.
Varadkar gave a telling pause as the host pushed him once again, noting that the pause represented a 'no'. "Am I right?" Tubridy enquired.
"There's a difference between the organisation and the people in it, and I don't want to say anything that would... it would be very easy to send out the wrong message to people that are working very hard tonight," Varadkar began.
Encouraging the Taoiseach to separate the people from the organisation, Tubridy once more asked if the HSE was fit for purpose.
"Not as the organisation as it is now," said Varadkar.
"And we have a plan to change that. It's actually an all-party plan, it's the first time we've had that; it's called Sláintecare and it sets out a 10-year vision that every party in the Dáil has for health service.
"The big structural change is to kind of slim down the HSE and to have a lot more autonomy, a lot more decisions happening at local level and at hospital level."
Clip via The Late Late Show
Tubridy pointed to figures that illustrate almost 10,000 people on trolleys in A&E in November, an 11% increase.
"This follows the country around like a smell, the trolly crisis," noted Tubridy.
"It's awful to see it when you go into a hospital. Again, it's just one of those things much the homeless thing; you talk about it, you seem concerned, sincerely, but you can't seem to get a handle on it," the host continued.
"Hospital overcrowding is a particularly difficult one to get a handle on," Varadkar responded.
"I'm a doctor. I'm a grandson. I have a grandmother who is in and out of hospital quite regularly from a nursing home. I don't want to see anybody spending time on a trolley.
"I think, though, sometimes we can always focus in the health service on overcrowding or sometimes waiting lists, we shouldn't forget the amount of progress that is being made."
Varadkar highlighted a survey of 14,000 patients who were asked what they thought regarding their own experiences.
"85% of them told us that their experience, once they got into it, their experience of our health service was actually very good.
"And if you think about it, people are living longer, healthier lives than ever before, more people survive cancer than die from it, stroke, heart attack, all those things are improving."
Tubridy noted the difference was that those patients were already in the health service system, not waiting to be.
"But that didn't happen by accident," replied the Taoiseach.
"That happened because government had the right strategies and policies in place, it happened because we had the funding - once we had the funding, we started providing it again.
"It's also because of the phenomenal work of all of our healthcare professionals," he added.
"Sometimes you can demoralise people by not acknowledging the progress that is being made."