Sinn Féin has criticised the health proposals of Budget 2023 as vague and poorly planned.
It claims the Government has failed to put up the necessary funding to support hospital capacity, reduce emergency department waits or expand mental health and disability services.
Budget 2023 doubles down on the “failed approach” over many decade of outsourcing waiting lists to the private sector, according to party health spokesman David Cullinane.
“The health section of the budget is vague, with little detail, no transparency in costing and no evidence of forward planning,” he said.
As Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly pointed out this week, the health budget is being increased to record levels next year, for the third year in a row. The budget in 2023 will be €23.4 billion.
Although health spending is being increased by €1.1 billion, the amount available for new measures next year is just €254 million, Mr Cullinane said. Most of the difference is accounted by the extra cost of providing an existing level of service for a growing population.
Sinn Féin said it would have allocated €658 million for additional measures, through extra core, capital and once-off funding.
The Government is proposing to provide 340,000 people with GP visit cards next year by raising the income thresholds for eligibility to the median household income of €46,000. This is in addition to 78,000 six- and seven-year-olds who are due to receive medical cards this year, provided agreement is reached with the Irish Medical Organisation.
Mr Cullinane said the proposal to expand GP visit card cover had merit but he criticised the Government for failing to consult properly with doctors and plan in advance for the necessary increases in doctor supply.
Sinn Féin had proposed to spend €40 million providing free GP care to 300,000 people, supported by a doubling of the staff subsidy for GPs over three years, at a cost of €92 million.
The party also proposed reducing the threshold for the drug payment scheme, abolishing prescription charges and hospital parking charges, none of which featured in Budget 2023.
It wants the State to start directly employing GPs, initially to provide out-of-hours and vacancy cover as well as medical card services.
Mr Cullinane said the Government was providing just €4.2 million to expand hospital capacity, and this would have to fund a variety of clinical strategies and services, extra hospital beds and the ambulance service.