Health needs €500m to cover overrun

Health will require an additional €500m in funds due to an overspend in the HSE, Health Minister Simon Harris told the Dáil, amid warnings hospital managers will have to stay within their budgets.

The total budget for the health service now stands at €13.695bn, a 6% rise on the projected cost from the Government’s 2015 budget.

The vast majority of the additional funds will be put towards covering the costs of an overrun.

Disability, mental health and home care services however will receive marginal boosts, Mr Harris said.

Disability services got the largest allocation of extra funding with €31m — €3m of which will be put into new initiatives, including the provision of services “to meet the need of school leavers with disabilities”.

The ring-fenced €20m mental health budget, which was cut at the end of the last government’s term, has been restored, Mr Harris said.

Home care services will get an additional €10m under a winter initiative in an attempt to relieve expected pressure on hospital services. “This initiative will help more older people to remain independent at home, and continue to have active lives in their communities for as long as possible,” he said.

Changes to GPs’ contracts to give them more access to diagnostic services and allow them to perform minor surgical procedures was another step towards taking stress off hospitals, he said.

The continual need to provide extra funding to cover overspend would have to be met with greater efforts by managers to deliver services “within the limits of resources that have been made available by government each year,” he warned.

The minister said it is now up to HSE director general Tony O’Brien and hospital managers to deal with their “sustainable budget” and stay within that.

During the debate, Social Democrat TD Stephen Donnelly lambasted the Government over cuts to services at Cappagh Hospital, notwithstanding the budget expansion.

“The Cappagh National Orthopaedic Hospital has seven operating theatres which used to operate every day and a surgeon, in a given eight-hour list, could do approximately seven procedures,” he said.

“Two of the operating theatres have been closed indefinitely and another two have been closed for refurbishment with no understanding as to when they will re-open. Only three of the seven operating theatres of the Cappagh National Orthopaedic Hospital are being used,” he added.

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