Embattled Health Minister James Reilly has written to Fine Gael TDs in a bid to steel them for the €700m of health service cuts planned in the budget.
In the letter, Dr Reilly acknowledges there will be “tight political and media scrutiny” ahead but seeks to reassure TDs that he will put “patients first” and “reductions in services last”.
He urges TDs to ignore the “opposition voices predicting calamity and catastrophe in the health services” that they will hear in the coming weeks.
While the breakdown of the overall €3.5bn budget adjustment will be hammered out between ministers in the coming months, Dr Reilly says he will be expected to find “savings of around €700m”.
This, he says, would be “massively difficult at any time”, but “much more so” now because of increased demand this year.
“We’re clearly positioned between a rock and a hard place: no choice but to cut costs while, on the other side, facing increased demand. The next few months will be crunch time; tough decisions with difficult implications. I can make only one promise to you as a member of the Fine Gael party: we’ll put patients first and we’ll put reduction in services last.”
He says the search for savings would focus on tackling “inefficiencies and waste”, such as excessive sick leave and overtime.
Dr Reilly, who is embroiled in personal controversy over a debt default, tells TDs he is “grateful” for their support in “meeting the serious challenges that lie ahead” in health.
The letter was obtained by news and political blogger Suzy Byrne who runs www.mamanpoulet.com
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