As was widely expected, Fine Gael’s Dr James Reilly has been appointed Minister for Health in the new coalition Government (Irishhealth.com)
Dr Reilly was first elected to the Dail in 2007 and was appointed Fine Gael health spokesman shortly afterwards. He was appointed the party’s Deputy Leader last July.
He faces a challenging task in pushing through the major health reforms promised by the new Government, most importantly the introduction of a new universal health insurance (UHI) system which aims to end two-tier care and give everyone equal access to GP and hospital treatment based solely on medical need.
The Government has promised free GP care will be introduced within its five-year term of office, following which the UHI system will come in, allowing for universal hospital care.
Dr Reilly also faces the more immediate task of dealing with waiting lists, bed capacity and emergency department overcrowding. The new Government has promised to set up a special delivery unit aimed at eliminating long patient waiting times.
The new Minister comes from a medical family going back three generations. His father, Dr Noel Reilly, was Secretary General of the Irish Medical Association. There are seven doctors in his family.
A GP in north Dublin for many years and a fourth generation native of Lusk, James Reilly is married with five children.
Prior to entering national politics, he had a major involvement in medical politics, having served as President of the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) and Chairman of the IMO’s GP Committee.
He led the IMO negotiating team which negotiated a lucrative deal for GPs following the extension of the medical card scheme to all over 70s regardless of income in 2001.
Dr Reilly has, however said that the will not shirk from taking on vested interests in implementing reforms. He has already promised to negotiate new contracts for GPs and consultants and cut their earnings.