FURTHER savings of €106 million will be realised by the Health Service Executive this year without adversely affecting patient care, Health Minister Mary Harney has claimed.
The savings on costs and administration are outlined in the HSE National Service Plan that shows how the health authority intends spending its budget of €14 billion.
Ms Harney said the administration and costs target set this year was in addition to the continuation of measures that achieved savings of €280m in 2008 and €115m last year.
“I believe the savings target was certainly achievable without affecting client care in any way,” she said.
A HSE spokesperson said the organisation was being “pared back” to ensure it got more for less money.
The plan includes reducing the number of emergency admissions by over 33,000, with the focus on those admitted for very short periods of time.
Ms Harney said the reduction in patient numbers would be achieved by increasing access to the specialist skills available in current and planned medical assessment units, diagnostics and other ambulatory care services. She said access to diagnostics would also be increased for at least 10,000 patients who, on an annual basis, were admitted only for that purpose.
Labour’s health spokesperson, Jan O’Sullivan, said it was not clear how the saving would be achieved.
She feared emergency services would suffer, with hospitals under pressure not to make admissions.
HSE chief executive, Prof Brendan Drumm, said efforts to reduce the number of people being admitted though hospital emergency departments would continue.
He was particularly pleased the development of 1,200 very high quality residential beds for older people and new primary care centres for 47 primary teams would be completed this year.
“These development will greatly support our shift to the community. We plan to have almost 400 primary care teams in place by the year end,” he said.
The budget includes an additional €230m to bring the numbers covered by a medical card to over 1.6m and to provide 114,436 GP visit cards.
Ms Harney also pointed out that €97m was being provided this year to support the growth in the number of people qualifying for Fair Deal – the nursing home support scheme.
A total of €15m was being provided for the implementation of the Ryan Report recommendations.
And €20 million was being provided for the further development of cancer services nationally.
Under the provisions of the Health Act, the minister will arrange for the report to be laid before the Dáil and Senate.
The service plan is likely to be one of a number of issues to be raised when Minister Harney and Prof Drumm appear at a meeting of the Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children later today.
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