Health Minister James Reilly deliberately withheld key information about the massive HSE overspend from the Dáil, Fianna Fáil has claimed.
Party leader Micheál Martin accused the minister of “dishonesty” regarding the scale of the financial problems rocking the service.
The charge came after letters emerged showing that Dr Reilly ignored repeated warnings from HSE chief executive Cathal Magee about the budget crisis in the health service.
Mr Magee pushed for action to be taken to deal with the deteriorating financial position, the documents released under freedom of information legislation show.
Mr Magee, who quit as HSE boss last month, called in April for clear guidance from Dr Reilly on how projected overspending would be funded and whether cost-cutting would affect services.
Mr Magee also revealed the looming crisis had been anticipated and discussed in the second half of last year.
The €281m overspend by the end of May, which could top €500m by year’s end, has been an escalating embarrassment for the Coalition. The troika singled it out as a cause of concern and demanded the Government took action to address the situation.
A very public spat emerged on the issue when Labour Public Expenditure Reform Minister Brendan Howlin wrote to Dr Reilly expressing concern at the overspend.
Coalition tension erupted again two weeks ago when it emerged Dr Reilly had not informed the Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore or any of the Labour ministers ahead of Mr Magee’s sudden resignation.
Mr Martin said Mr Magee’s correspondence highlighted chaos in the health department.
“This information confirms that the Government knew as far back as early March that the estimates it had prepared for the health service this year could not be achieved. Yet the Dáil was fobbed off by both the Taoiseach and the Health Minister after I raised concerns about the health budget on a number of occasions.
“It is now abundantly clear that Minister Reilly and the Taoiseach have misled the Dáil and the public about the extent of the health budget crisis for months. That Cathal Magee felt compelled to write to the secretary general of the Department of Public Expenditure, Robert Watt, in June after being ignored by the health minister since the beginning of March, illustrates the extent of the crisis that was looming.
“The Government has clearly hid behind Freedom of Information to delay making public the depth of the failures in providing an honest estimate for the health service,” he said.
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