Sinn Féin condemns plan to divert health funds

Calls for Leo Varadkar to explain why mental health spending is being diverted to other areas

Minister for Health Leo  Varadkar’s department plans to raid €12 million of the €35 million reserved for mental health to offset costs in other areas. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar’s department plans to raid €12 million of the €35 million reserved for mental health to offset costs in other areas. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

 

Sinn Féin has called on Minister for Health Leo Varadkar to explain to the Dáil why money supposedly ring-fenced for mental health spending is being diverted to other areas.

Mr Varadkar’s department plans to raid €12 million of the €35 million reserved for mental health to offset costs in other areas, but this is being resisted by Minister of State Kathleen Lynch, The Irish Times reported yesterday.

Deplorable

He said it was imperative Mr Varadkar was held to account as soon as possible before the Dáil in relation to the issue.

The department said in a statement that the 2016 HSE service plan provided for “time-related savings” in mental health to be used in home care and for care beds, but not to address waiting lists. Some of the money was being used for this purpose because recruitment of extra mental health staff “does take time”.

The College of Psychiatrists expressed dismay at the plans to divert money and pointed out the percentage of the Irish health budget dedicated to mental health services already lags behind that of similar democracies.

“Talk of dispersion of funds from mental health to other areas reflects an ambivalent attitude to mental illness by some decision-makers,” said Dr John Hillery, director of communication at the college. “This must be resisted as scandalous and discriminatory.”

Green party deputy leader Catherine Martin said any reduction would have serious consequences down the line: “It is unacceptable that funding for essential services in mental health is under threat due to mismanagement in other areas, just to relieve political pressure over the serious issues facing the health service.”

‘No circumstances’

Ms Lynch, who has ministerial responsibility for mental health, said there were “no circumstances where I could agree to one-third of my budget for developments in mental health being transferred to another service for 2016”.

“Such a decision would have a very, serious negative impact on the implementation of mental health policy,” she warned in a letter sent to Department of Health secretary-general Jim Breslin.