FG wants frontline spared but quiet on health alternatives
FINE Gael leader Enda Kenny yesterday refused to outline where he would make the €1bn cuts in the health service after he publicly called for no impact to frontline services.
Taoiseach Brian Cowen refused to offer any guarantee that frontline services in hospitals will be fully protected in the draconian December Budget.
Up to €1bn will have to be slashed from the Health Service Executive (HSE) as the Government prepares to cut up to €5bn on December 7.
Mr Kenny yesterday demanded a guarantee that whatever cutbacks are made in the health budget, it will not have a direct impact on frontline services.
But he failed to spell out how he would find the full €1bn in cutbacks without reneging on the Croke Park deal or impacting on frontline services.
He said at least €200m could be saved by using generic drugs and another €92m could be saved on agency staff, leaving him hundreds of thousands short of the cutbacks target of between €600m and €1bn.
Fine Gael, Labour and Sinn Fein have yet to receive detailed figures on the budgets of each government department and will not outline their proposals until they receive full figures.
The HSE will have to find savings by reducing services, cutting overtime or saving on procurement. The Croke Park public sector deal means pay cannot be touched until 2014.
The Taoiseach said it is always the Government's objective to ensure frontline services are provided to the "greatest extent possible with the money provided".
But Fine Gael claimed "patient safety" is completely different to "patient services".
Mr Kenny said he recognised the Government had led the country into "economic quicksand" and reductions must be made across all departments.
"In the interests of the hundreds of thousands affected by this, and irrespective of the size of the cutback, can the Taoiseach give the people an assurance that the cut will not affect frontline services, which save lives?" Mr Kenny asked.
Mr Cowen insisted the Croke Park agreement would ensure changes can be made that minimise the impact on frontline services.