HSE to present plan to Reilly this month

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin criticises Government over health budget cuts

Taoiseach defended Minister for Health James Reilly from Opposition attacks

Taoiseach defended Minister for Health James Reilly from Opposition attacks

Thu, Nov 7, 2013, 01:01

The HSE will present its service plan to Minister for Health Dr James Reilly on Friday, November 15th, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said.

He added the Minister had given extra time for its preparation owing to all of the challenges faced. The health budget this year was €13.263 billion, with a capital fund of €357 million .
“The total savings identified this year are over €600 million,” he added. “Everyone understands this will be a very challenging year for the health service.”

Mr Kenny said Dr Reilly was operating with a budget of €3 billion less than in 2008 and 10,000 fewer staff. “He is changing the structure of the costs of delivering health services, not the services,” he added.

The Taoiseach was responding to Opposition questions on the letter from the chief executives of four hospitals, St James’s, Tallaght, the Mater and Our Lady’s Hospital Crumlin, as revealed on RTÉ’s Prime Time.

‘Patient safety’

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said the letter indicated the centre could not hold if the Government proceeded with cuts planned to the health budget.

“In a nutshell, they have stated the quality of services and patient safety are being compromised and will be irreparably compromised if the cuts go ahead,” he added. “This is about access to services and patient safety.”

Mr Kenny said he had noted the chief executives had sought “constructive engagement” with the hospitals in the budgetary formulation and this would happen during the preparation and determination of the HSE service plan.

Mr Martin said there should be less of the denial. “No one can pinpoint the proposed cuts in the health service at this stage because the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform handed them to the Minister for Health with a take-it-or- leave-it ultimatum.

“Meanwhile, the HSE claims the cuts will amount to €1 billion when they are finished, not €666 million.”

‘Snide assertion’

Mr Kenny said he rejected Mr Martin’s “snide assertion’’ that patient safety was not a priority for the Minister for Health or the Government.

He added that when Mr Martin was minister for health, he went from a health expenditure of €3.6 billion to more than €15 billion. He had spent €13.8 million on management consultancy and had to be bailed out to the tune of €664 million.

Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald said Dr Reilly should resign, adding the hospital chief executives had said the Government cuts and demands for fewer staff and shorter waiting lists were unsustainable and undeliverable and the foundations of the health system were being damaged.

Mr Kenny said he had confidence in the Minister.

Ms McDonald said she was not surprised at the Taoiseach’s expression of confidence in the Minister, “because it is clear that he lives in some kind of warped bubble regarding these matters”. She said it was clear from reports from Crumlin hospital that children with cancer were experiencing delays in receiving chemotherapy.

Mr Kenny said he had a sense of responsibility to the people the Government served.

“This is not a joke, but a very serious matter,” he added. “This letter from the four CEOs is a serious letter and written from their perspective.”