Hepatitis C pay outs to be £30m less than expected this year


Supplementary estimates of just over £40 million for the Department of Health have been accepted by the Dail. The Minister for Health, Mr Cowen, said the accounts showed an expenditure of £30 million less than expected this year for the hepatitis C tribunal. He said £72 million had been made available to cover the costs of claims at the tribunal, but only £42 million is expected to be paid out by the end of the year.

Mr Cowen highlighted funding for a number of areas, including an extra £23 million for capital expenditure, and a superannuation allocation of £5 million for the increasing number of retirements and a consequent increase in the yearly budget provision.

The Minister said the cost of the Community Drugs Scheme was difficult to predict and £10.9 million had been allocated to it.

The Government had agreed to provide once-off funding of £4.825 million for the purchase of equipment, aids and appliances by voluntary organisations working with people with physical and sensory disabilities and with older people. A further £4.5 million is provided mainly to allow voluntary organisations to "eliminate historical funding deficits which have built up over the years", the Minister said.

The Minister highlighted the problem of homeless children and children with emotional and behavioural difficulties who required special care and education. "Provision is being made for an additional £1.5 million for health boards, on a once-off basis, to cover unanticipated legal costs arising from court cases involving these children."

A further £4.5 million will be provided on an ongoing basis to cover additional costs in dealing with these children.

Mr Alan Shatter (FG, Dublin South) criticised the substantial amounts of money being spent to send a small number of children with behavioural and emotional difficulties to England for care.

It was "extremely depressing" that £1.5 million had been allocated to meet the legal costs of health boards in court cases brought against the State and health boards to require them to uphold the constitutional rights of children with emotional and behavioural difficulties to be cared for.

"It would be far more satisfactory if that £1.5 million was put into partially contributing towards meeting the cost of the new facilities and services required in this State to cope with children who have very particular problems which currently fall outside the health services," he said.

Criticising the substantial waiting lists for cardiac surgery, Mr Shatter said it was "outrageous" that some patients were waiting up to six years for cardiac treatment. "In a modern Western democracy it is completely unacceptable that people are dying on cardiac waiting lists," he said. The Minister said he would shortly be going to Cabinet with a full cardiac care programme and was committed to dealing effectively with hospital waiting lists.

Mr Derek McDowell (Lab, Dublin North Central) said the Minister's delay on cardiac waiting lists was "quite inexplicable".

He said that waiting lists for some orthodontic treatments had been dealt with by "sleight of hand". They had disappeared not because of treatment but because children of 14 or 15 who had been on waiting lists for years were told the treatments would not be carried out under the GMS system but would have to be done privately.

Mr Sean Barrett (FG, Dun Laoghaire) raised the issue of subventions for care for the elderly. He said it was crazy that the health boards were building more units to care for the elderly at a cost higher than subvention for private nursing homes.