Mixed reaction to Minister's cuts U-turn


THE PARTIAL reversal of cuts in frontline health services by Minister for Health James Reilly was given a mixed reaction after it was announced last night.

The campaign group Older and Bolder said the decision to reverse cuts to personal assistant hours for people with a disability was “only a partial response to the distress inflicted on vulnerable people by promised cuts to home-care services”.

It called for “a reversal of the decision to cut home-help services and home-care packages which benefit older people, children with life-limiting illnesses and people with disabilities who need home-care services”.

The group’s director, Patricia Conboy, said: “Cuts to home-care services which support older people to remain living at home and within their own communities will result in earlier admissions to nursing homes, longer stays in acute hospitals and anguish for families who wish to care for relatives suffering from illness, frailty and disability at home.”

Labour Party chairman Colm Keaveney said the decision “proves that this Government is willing to listen to the people and to its own backbenchers”.

“I wish to acknowledge the role that my Labour Party colleagues, the Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore and Minister Brendan Howlin played in securing this,” he added.

The move was announced by the Department of Health three hours after yesterday’s Cabinet meeting.

Mr Keaveney said: “Labour will continue to play its role in bearing the burden of responsibility for solving our current difficulties while protecting services for our most vulnerable citizens.

“I remain confident that Minister Reilly will continue to address the necessary reforms within the HSE, particularly in the areas of purchase management, the cost of medication, the outstanding monies owed from the private insurance companies, and the issue of consultants’ pay,” the Labour chairman added.

Sinn Féin spokesman on health Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD said the decision was welcome “but such cuts should never have been contemplated in the first place”.

Mr Ó Caoláin added: “This climbdown in the space of less than a week highlights the chaotic management of the health services under Health Minister Reilly and his Fine Gael/Labour Coalition colleagues.

“The whole €130 million cuts package, including cuts to home help and home-care services, should also be reversed.”

The Minister informed the Cabinet that he had instructed the HSE to continue to provide personal assistant services to those who got them now, in accordance with their needs.

The Cabinet meeting lasted about 3½ hours. A Government spokeswoman said Ministers agreed to approach economic issues over the next 12 months in a “confident and businesslike” way.

There was a “recognition that difficult decisions will have to be made in the budget”. Ireland’s EU presidency in the first half of 2013 was part of the discussion.

The Cabinet meeting, which was the first since the summer break, began at 2pm. Despite reports of tensions with Fine Gael over health cuts, Labour Ministers were in relaxed mood on their way into the meeting.

The Cabinet also agreed to establish a national procurement office under the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in a new approach to the purchase of supplies by public bodies. The decision was taken on foot of a request from Minister of State for Public Expenditure Brian Hayes, and significant savings are expected.

The Cabinet also approved an official visit by President Michael D Higgins to Chile, Brazil and Argentina next month.