Tax cuts impossible if HSE gets €2bn extra

The Department of Health and the HSE have refused to comment on a leaked document that shows the health service needs a 16.5% increase in funding next year in a demand that would ruin any chances of tax breaks or reversal of cutbacks in the upcoming budget.

The estimates submission shows the HSE needs €1.9bn more than the €11.5bn it got this year — mostly to cover the over-run already incurred and to meet growing costs of providing services without even improving or expanding those services.

It comes despite assurances from Health Minister Leo Varadkar this time last year that the HSE was getting all the resources it needed and that it would not run into the now annual end-of-year financial crisis.

Fianna Fáil health spokesperson Billy Kelleher said it was time the Government got realistic about the true cost of running a properly functioning health service.

“The health service needs a credible budget for 2016. For a number of years it has started the year with a plan everyone knew would not get them to year’s end.

“What happens then is that important services, usually at this point in the year, are restricted, operations and procedures are pushed out and patients are left waiting longer for care.”

Among the HSE’s demands is almost €500m extra to cover the over-run in spending this year — almost the same amount as last year’s over-run.

Roughly €1bn is sought for both the anticipated additional costs of providing the same level of services as this year, and for the costs of expanding some services due to the growing population. Just over €400m is sought for actually improving services.

The HSE declined to answer questions. “As the Estimates are bound by Government confidentiality we are not in a position to comment whilst the process is ongoing,” it said. The Department of Health also said it could not comment.

The dilemma presented by the HSE figures comes as the service faces questions for increasing its staff of senior managers at a time when the organisation is short of money and is also in the process of being abolished.

In just three years the number of people in senior management positions grew by almost 30%, the number of national directors rose from 11 to 15 and the number of assistant national directors jumped from 52 to 82.

The HSE defended the increases, saying they were due to the restructuring which it described as “arguably the largest public sector reform programme in the country’s history”.

The running of the health services is being taken over by seven new bodies based on groups of hospitals which needed senior managers.

The HSE said: “Considering that any one of the hospital groups would, in their own right, be amongst the largest organisations in the State in terms of staff and budget, a significant challenge is that the rates of pay offered for these roles are not particularly competitive. This has made it difficult to fill many of the roles.”

It added that some of the increase arose from regularisation of staff who had filled senior posts without the due pay or promotion because of a staffing moratorium.

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