No further health cuts acceptable, says White

Some budgetary decisions on health not properly assessed, says Minister of State

Alex White: “We really have reached the end of the line in terms of cuts in our health service.” Photograph: Stephen Collins/Collins

Alex White: “We really have reached the end of the line in terms of cuts in our health service.” Photograph: Stephen Collins/Collins

Fri, Jun 6, 2014, 01:00

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Labour Party leadership contender Alex White has said further cuts in the health service cannot be endured.

“We really have reached the end of the line in terms of cuts in our health service,” he said yesterday at the opening of a primary care centre at Summerhill in Co Meath.

He noted that all budgetary decisions were made at Cabinet, adding that some had not been sufficiently assessed.

“We all have to take our share of the blame for what has happened,” said Mr White, who expressed full confidence in Minister for Health James Reilly.

However, his leadership rival Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton was critical of Dr Reilly and said he would have to be responsible for his decisions in the medical card crisis and health service budget generally.

Political will

She disagreed with Dr Reilly’s claim that the “political will” and consensus at Cabinet to fix the problems arising from the removal of discretionary medical cards emerged only in recent weeks.

“I actually don’t agree with him there because I think the desire has been among everybody in the Cabinet, and it’s a collective Cabinet and the Cabinet makes collective decisions, of which I’m a part but of which he is also very much a part,” she said.

“I don’t really understand, because Dr Reilly was at the Cabinet table and he was a party to those discussions. Obviously as the line Minister, as with me, I’ve made decisions, I have to stand over those decisions. Dr Reilly himself would also have to be responsible for his decisions. But the Cabinet collectively is also responsible. The key thing is that we get a reformed health service,” she said in an interview on RTÉ radio.

Meanwhile the Health Service Executive announced the membership of the expert panel that will examine how medical needs should be taken into account for medical card eligibility.

It said in a statement that the expert panel would examine and recommend the range of medical conditions that should be considered when determining eligibility.

“The work of the expert panel will inform the development of a policy framework for medical card eligibility to take account of medical conditions, as announced by Government last week,” it said.

The expert panel will be chaired by Prof Frank Keane, past president of the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland, and will include a range of clinical experts from primary care, specialist services and therapies.

“The panel is comprised of a range of medical professionals to take account of the broad range of chronic, lifelong and life-limiting conditions that are likely to be considered by the panel,” the statement.

The panel will identify a range of medical conditions, in priority order, that would benefit most from medical card eligibility and is due to report by next September.