independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

Health service facing ‘most severe financial challenges next year' - HSE bosses

Minister for Health James Reilly
Minister for Health James Reilly

THE Health Service Executive (HSE) has published its 2014 Service Plan which details how some €619m worth of cuts will be delivered.

HSE bosses have warned that the Health Service is facing "the most severe financial challenges next year".

It's been confirmed that the initial savings target of €666m has been revised downwards after some €47m worth of government savings were found elsewhere.

The plan reveals cuts of €23m in medical card services - down from the initial target of €113m.

€140 worth of savings will be found in the area of pay as a result of the Haddington Road Agreement. Some €108m is described as "unspecified savings" while €63m will be found in the area of pensions.

And some €129m worth of savings will be found in areas such as procurement, hospital reconfiguration, energy efficiency and other services.

The plan commits to the delivery of free GP care for children under six and promises to spend an additional €20m in the area of mental health.

It's claimed that HSE bosses were forced to consider the "reduction or closing of services" during the development of the plan.

Director General of the HSE, Tony O'Brien, said the body is committed to protecting frontline services.

"My principal focus is to continue to deliver the same level of frontline services with a reduced budget while ensuring that quality and safety is not compromised in any way," he said.

"In the context of a reduced budget, the Haddington Road Agreement provides an important mechanism by which this Service Plan can be delivered,"he added.

Speaking earlier, Health Minister James Reilly admitted that the €133m proposed cuts to medical cards was unachievable.

Dr Reilly told the Dail that he was never going to be able to deliver the  €133m in medical card savings, known as 'probity', which was proposed in October's Budget.

He said the target has been slashed to €23m and insisted that there will be no changes to eligibility.

"This will allow those who have medical cards be absolutely assured that those who are entitled to them remain entitled to themThere is no change in eligibility going to occur in the course of this year,"Dr Reilly said.

The Fine Gael minister said that as part of probity process, health officials will

attempt to validate cards to "ensure that people haven't left the country or haven't moved on to somewhere else".

He said it is important that doctors "aren't being paid for cards for people who they aren't delivering services to".

Supporters of Health Minister Dr James Reilly’s always argued the controversial €113m was imposed upon him in Budget 2014 by the Department of Public Expenditure.

The abandonment of the original €113m target for the controversial medical card probity was first revealed in the Sunday Independent a fortnight ago.

Niall O'Connor Political Correspondent

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