Troika’s new monthly monitoring of health spend exposes failures by Reilly, says Opposition

Minister for Health says department has nothing to fear over monthly reports

The anti-austerity march organised by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions  in Dublin  earlier this year. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

The anti-austerity march organised by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions in Dublin earlier this year. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill


The Opposition has said the disclosure that the troika is monitoring health spending on a monthly basis is a reflection of the failure by Minister for Health James Reilly to tackle burgeoning costs in the sector.

In a response to yesterday’s I rish Times report which disclosed a new requirement to brief the troika each month, Sinn Féin spokesman Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said the public health system was not at the mercy of the troika. Fianna Fáil spokesman Billy Kelleher said Reilly was out of his depth.

But Dr Reilly has said his department has nothing to fear from possible monthly reporting to the troika.

Speaking in Dublin, Dr Reilly said there were “always difficulties with a finite budget and unlimited demand”. However, he said he had been assured by incoming HSE head Tony O’Brien that spending was currently “well within parameters”.

Dr Reilly was speaking after an internal staff report prepared by the EU Commission revealed the EU-ECB-IMF troika had imposed a new requirement on the Government to report monthly on its efforts to rein in overspending in the health sector.

Dr Reilly said much work on timely reporting had already been done. “We used to have to wait until April or May of the year until we saw the way things were going,” he said. “We have far greater controls than we had before.”

For his part, Mr Ó Caoláin said: “The Government has imposed major cuts across our public health services, adversely affecting patient care. Yet Dr Reilly has failed to effectively tackle the massive over-pricing of medicines in this State.

“The troika is pressing for further restrictions on the numbers of people with medical cards and the Government is complying. This is despite the Fine Gael/Labour Coalition’s promise to introduce free GP care for all in its first term of office,” he said.

Mr Kelleher said: “It is further evidence that no one is in charge of the department and Dr Reilly has no control over spending.

“The leaked elements of this internal EU Commission report make for very grim reading. It reiterates what I have been saying: the sweeping changes that were promised by the Minister have utterly failed,” he said.

Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty responded to the EU Commission’s argument for more bank repossessions of properties by saying the Government must resist pressure from the troika in this regard.

“I understand the latest troika report condemns the banks on the one hand for not doing enough but it is also siding with the banks on repossessions.

“It is becoming clearer that in the conflict between those who are struggling to pay their mortgages, and the banks, the Government – with cover from the troika – is siding with the banks.”

Sources at the Department of Social Protection responded to EU Commission criticism by pointing out that more than €1 billion would be spent in 2013 on schemes to get people back to work.

The sources said the department had, in a memo to Cabinet in January, argued for a doubling of case managers for such schemes, but pointed out that even with all those measures in place, the number of people in long-term unemployment would remain high.