HSE’s €14bn budget ‘unlikely to ease service woes’

The Health Service Executive’s €14bn budget is unlikely to make any serious headway in alleviating difficulties in the health service, Fianna Fáil’s health spokesman Billy Kelleher claimed yesterday.

HSE director general Tony O'Brien and Health Minister Simon Harris at the publication of the HSE 2017 national service plan.

While hospitals had received a modest funding increase, it was highly unlikely to make a meaningful difference or help them meet the targets set for them, he noted.

“Of the €119m increase in the hospital budget, just €9m is for expanding existing services or developing new ones. While it appears that the overall ‘goal’ for emergency departments is for 100% of attendees to be discharged or admitted within nine hours, the actual ‘target’ for 2017 is just a 5% improvement on the 2016 outturn.”

Meanwhile, the National Association of General Practitioners said the HSE’s commitment to making a decisive shift to GP-led primary care was not reflected in the national service plan. The GP representative body compared the budget increase of €30.8m in primary care to the €118m for acute hospitals.

The Irish Hospitals Consultants Association said the “root causes” of the crisis in public hospitals — inadequate bed capacity and insufficient operating capacity — were not tackled in the plan. A 2.8% increase in the acute hospital budget was not enough to deal with patient demand.

The Irish Medical Organisation said the health budget fell short of what is needed next year. “Let’s stop the idle chatter about how much we are spending and start concentrating on how much we need to spend,” said IMO president Dr John Duddy.

Age Action said the service plan ignored the crisis in home care support. “Home help hours and home care packages are simply not available in many parts of the country, and the failure to address this is very disappointing,” said Age Action’s Justin Moran.

Nursing Homes Ireland wants the Public Accounts Committee to examine the service plan as spending on Fair Deal, the nursing homes support scheme, was short-changing private and voluntary operators.

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