Government reverses health cuts
The Government last night ordered the reversal of more than €10 million in cuts affecting the disabled.
The U-turn follows a storm of criticism since the Health Service Executive announced the cuts last week, with the decision taken after a lengthy Cabinet meeting yesterday largely devoted to the financial problems in the health service.
The meeting agreed that Minister for Health Dr James Reilly’s officials will direct the HSE not to proceed with planned cuts to personal assistant hours, which were projected to save €10.8 million this year.
Instead, the savings will be made through savings in travel and subsistence costs in the disability sector, Dr Reilly said last night.
Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn told RTÉ Radio that the decision was taken by Dr Reilly and was not ordered by the Cabinet.
Controversial cuts in spending on home help services will still go ahead, and the HSE plans to make total savings of €130 million in the rest of the year to stem. In a statement, Dr Reilly said the HSE would assess each application for home help according to individual needs. It is not clear where the resources for such assessments will come from.
Dr Reilly said savings would have to be achieved from the total disability budget of €1.4 billion a year. However, he had instructed the HSE to make “adjustments” across the sector by cutting administration, training and travel costs, and through better management of the money handled by agencies involved.
He said he had requested the HSE to work with agencies to minimise the impact on disability services: “The Minister will receive regular reports from the HSE on the measures and will keep regularly reviewing the application of these measures to ensure that they are being applied as fairly and sympathetically as possible.”
No detail was provided on the measures that need to be taken by Dr Reilly’s department to bridge the balance of the €260 million shortfall in the health service.
Age Action today welcomed the partial reversal of the cuts. However, it asked how the Government found €10 million this week to reverse the reduction of personal assistant hours when it could not last week. A spokesman also asked why the Government cannot find the €12.5 million needed to reverse the cuts to older people’s services.
The full impact of the headline cuts in other areas announced last week will become apparent only when the HSE briefs staff on cutbacks to services in each of its four regions later this week. A spokeswoman said the exact configuration of local cuts, expected to include bed closures in the hospitals most in deficit, was still being worked through.