Miriam O'Callaghan had no patience for Stephen Donnelly's "gibberish" on Prime Time
"I can't take that seriously, Minister."
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly was met with a hostile reception in the RTÉ Prime Time studio on Thursday evening as host Miriam O'Callaghan struggled to retain patience with her guest.
Following recent reports that the multi-billion Sláintecare plan is effectively on the brink following the resignations of executive director Laura Magahy and Professor Tom Keane, chairman of the Sláintecare Implementation Advisory Committee, earlier this month, Donnelly moved to assure the public that the program is in quite rude health, actually.
Asked if the "political will" was present for Sláintecare, Donnelly began:
"Not only is the political will there, but we've never been moving quicker on Sláintecare."
O'Callaghan quickly interrupted, noting: "I can't take that seriously, Minister. You've just lost the two people running it. You cannot honestly say that you've never been moving as quick on it."
In response, Donnelly attempted to keep composure, noting that he could indeed make that claim. Asked who is now running Sláintecare in the wake of recent resignations, Donnelly said:
"Well, we'll reflect on that, obviously. Laura [Magahy] only handed her resignation in, she's going to be around for about two months and we'll look to that – but we have to keep our eye on universal healthcare.
"Sláintecare is the map to that," Donnelly continued. "It's why it's so important."
O'Callaghan countered by suggesting the the outgoing Laura Magahy "really didn't have any independence" and that the Minister for Health and the HSE were calling all of the shots.
"Sláintecare is owned by the entire Department [of Health] and it's owned by the entire HSE," Donnelly began in response, only for O'Callaghan to coldly cut him off:
"That's gibberish, Minister, with respect," she said.
"No, it's not," Donnelly retorted. "If you want to add 800 hospital beds in one year, if you want to increase ICU capacity by 25% since the pandemic started, if you want to launch GP access to diagnostics – never been done before – if you want to do all of these things in hospitals, in primary care, in the communities, it's a strategy that has to be owned by everybody."
At this point, a clearly unimpressed O'Callaghan stepped in once more:
"You need a leader of Sláintecare, actually, is the answer to that," she said. "You need someone to run it." Asked when someone would be put in place to do just that, Donnelly reiterated that his department will "look at that, obviously".
You can watch the full exchange below.
"We've never been moving quicker on Sláintecare"
Following the recent resignations of senior figures, @MiriamOCal asks Minister for Health @DonnellyStephen is the Government still behind its healthcare reforms | #rtept pic.twitter.com/vyAQhlkP51
— RTÉ Prime Time (@RTE_PrimeTime) September 16, 2021