Reilly 'in control' of Health despite overspend reports

Reilly 'in control' of Health despite overspend reports
Health Minister Dr James Reilly

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney has denied that James Reilly has lost control of his department amid reports of a ballooning deficit in the Health Service Executive (HSE).

The Irish Times says official correspondence from the HSE to both the Departments of Health and Public Expenditure and Reform last month indicates a deficit of almost €300m.

The estimate of €286m is almost double the health minister's own overspend forecast last month of €150m for the year.

HSE Chief Executive Tony O'Brien is due to appear before the Dáil Public Accounts Committee today where further deails of the projected budget overrun are expected to be revealed.

Any further allocation to the HSE will be the agency's sixth budget bailout in as many years.

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney today defended his colleague's management of the health sector and the overspend controversy.

"There are things within the health system that are not working at the moment and need to be fixed," Minister Coveney said.

"There are a lot of things that are also improving, despite the fact that we're spending less money now than we did years ago.

"The answer to the health service isn't the Fianna Fáil solution - which is (to) pump more and more money into it - we need to have accuracy here".

"One of the frustrations with health budgets is that it has been difficult to predict accuracy how much money is needed and will be spent," he added.

Meanwhile the chairman of the Irish Medical Organisation's GP committee has criticised the health minister for failing to discuss with him the Government's plan for free GP care for children under six.

The measure was announced in the budget to come into effect next year - yet to date Dr Ray Walley says no discussions have taken place as to how the new regime will work.

He has described as "arrogant" Minister Reilly's refusal to discuss the changes with the people who provide the service.

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