New HSE chief given week to deliver savings

Mon, Sep 3, 2012, 01:00

THE INCOMING director general of the Health Service Executive has said he was given a week to finalise cuts which could “definitively” deliver savings of €130 million by the end of the year.

Tony O’Brien said there “was a clear requirement from Government by the end of last week to identify €130 million that could be definitively delivered this year”.

He said the process of identifying such cuts had been under way at the HSE since July and the recent urgency was because specific proposals were required by Government for presentation to the EU-IMF-ECB troika.

Mr O’Brien said the €130 million was a key part of a potential overspend of €500 million by year end, but the executive was searching for savings which could lessen the impact on services.

Concerning proposals to cut homecare services, Mr O’Brien said instead of 5,300 “packages” in place at any one time, there would be 5,100 between now and the end of the year. He acknowledged concern over the reduction, but said the HSE had not “turned off the tap” and was working to ensure that those in most need would continue to receive services.

He said the issue of pay costs within the HSE was set down under the Croke Park deal. Mr O’Brien added that he was aware of the Department of Health seeking to introduce a contract for junior hospital consultants which could alter pay costs dramatically.

Mr O’Brien said on RTÉ radio lunchtime news that absenteeism was “clearly an issue” but that the objective was to reduce it to 3.5 per cent of employees absent at any given time. Current levels were as high as 7.5 per cent in some areas. A process was under way to manage unjustified levels of absence and some staff had left the HSE as a result.

Reducing the cost of using agency staff, while minimising the impact on patient services, represented a significant challenge, he said. Discussions were ongoing about the possibility of patients being sent home at weekends in a bid to free up beds.

Without action to improve the financial situation, he added, the health service would run out of cash before the end of the year.