Hospice beds will be cut next year, Micheál Martin warns

Fianna Fáil leader says disability, elderly care and other organisations also at risk

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar says such bodies “have a lot of autonomy to decide how that money is allocated”. Photograph: iStock

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar says such bodies “have a lot of autonomy to decide how that money is allocated”. Photograph: iStock

 

Hospice beds will be cut next year because of a reduction in State funding, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has warned.

He told the Dáil the Government was refusing to allocate sufficient funding to the hospice movement and was compounding that by refusing to allocate funding to cover pay restoration for staff working in the institutions as per the public service pay agreements.

“There are hundreds of other organisations across the country in a similar situation which provide disability services, addiction counselling and services for carers,’’ he added.

Mr Martin said those organisations include Barnardos and Barretstown camp for young children with cancer, the Disability Federation of Ireland, the Diabetes Federation of Ireland and as many as 768 others.

He said Taoiseach Leo Varadkar had added insult to injury some months ago by telling him they would not get pay restoration but he would not allow them to cut services either.

He said he wanted to know whether the Government would provide necessary funding to enable hospices, disability organisations, elderly care organisations and many more to pay their employees the same rate of restoration that was allowed for in the public service pay agreement.

Wonderful work

Mr Varadkar said everybody in the Government, including himself, was aware of the wonderful work that the hospice movement did, not just in hospices themselves but also in hospice home care.

He said the issue Mr Martin referred to was the law around section 38 and section 39 bodies.

He said those who worked under section 39 provisions – often hospices, charities and other bodies – were not public servants.

“When salaries are being cut, or when salaries are being increased, they are not bound by the rules around public service pensions,’’ he added.

“The way those bodies are funded is through a block grant from Government, and those bodies have a lot of autonomy to decide how that money is allocated.’’

Mr Martin said this was the dishonesty of the Government’s response.

“Is the Taoiseach seriously suggesting that nurses in a hospice should get less pay than nurses in other parts of the health services or care staff in a hospice should get less pay than those in any other service?’’ he asked.

Mr Varadkar said there were differences in pay between the public and private sectors.

“This, if you like, is part of a third sector, a voluntary sector, section 39, which is not part of the public service, and that is where the issue arises,’’ he added.