Howlin rules out an extra €2bn for HSE
Published 02/09/2015 | 02:30
The HSE's demands for a €2bn rise in funding next year have been dismissed as "unrealistic" by Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin.
He failed to say how generous the Government might be in its allocation to the health service in 2016 - but repeated that it has only €1.5bn at its disposal for additional spending and reliefs overall.
The Irish Independent revealed that the HSE is facing an overrun of €500m this year and wants €1.4bn extra in funding for 2016 just to maintain services. It wants another €597m to develop services.
However, Mr Howlin said he would first be "drilling down" to assess if services which are inadequate are due to lack of resources or a need for better delivery and efficiencies.
"My approach has not been what is the amount of money this area demands, but what are we getting for it," he said.
He added Health Minister Leo Varadkar was "very involved" in bringing about a change of culture in the health service and his predecessor, James Reilly, had tried to do the same.
There were other competing demands in areas such as education and justice.
One of the most "pressing social needs" was in the area of housing, he told the Today with Sean O' Rourke show on RTÉ.
"We have gone through the most horrendous economic disaster in our history since independence. We are now emerging because of the discipline that was required," he said.
"We are not going back to the old ways of those who shout loudest getting the most.
"We need to keep the ship steady and not be profligate and throw money at any issue."
He refused to be drawn on whether the Labour Party will enter an election pact with Fine Gael, saying that any decision would have to be discussed and made closer to the event.
Both parties will face particular pressure in trying to justify their failure to live up to some of their grand promises in the area of health in the 2011 election's manifestos.
The failure to deliver on basic pledges such as the abolition of the prescription charge for medical card holders - which ended up being increased instead - could lead to a backlash from the electorate.
The charge is now a major earner for the HSE and any reduction would hit the service's income.
In its pre-estimates submission, the HSE said that more savings and efficiencies can be made " over time" but they will not offset the need for additional funding and investment.
The extra investment from Government is essential to make up for some of the adverse impact of the last six to seven years, the HSE added. .