Thursday 21 September 2017

Coalition won't sign off on HSE cuts until troika exit

Health Minister James Reilly
Health Minister James Reilly

Daniel McConnell Political Correspondent

THE Government will not sign off on the controversial HSE service plan until the troika leave town, for fear the EU-IMF would reject it, Government sources have claimed.

The three-week deadline for approval of the plan, by Health Minister Dr James Reilly, ends on December 16 -- the day after the official end of the bailout.

Government sources say the "slash and burn" plan has been held back until Ireland officially exits the bailout in December, to avoid scrutiny from troika officials.

Since Budget day last month, delivery of the service plan -- which will make savings of at least €666m -- has been delayed twice, and Dr Reilly now has until December 16 to sign off on it.

Officials in the Department of Health have made no secret of their displeasure of dealing with the troika over the state of the health service.

Last night, Government figures conceded that the estimated €250m end-of-year bailout needed to meet the cost overrun in Health would be "far trickier" to get had the troika still been in town.

They said talk of the bailout being in excess of €286m were on the "high side."

On Budget day, Dr Reilly had forecast the deficit would be in the region of €150m.

The HSE service plan would be subjected to much closer scrutiny if the troika was still in town, sources say.

Dr Reilly received the report on Monday night and has 21 days to consider it, with Government sources last night confirming "major issues remain outstanding".

DELAYED

Officials in Dr Reilly's department and the HSE remain at odds with Minister Brendan Howlin's officials, who are adamant savings of €150m in Haddington Road must be achieved and that €113m of medical card "probity savings" must be delivered, sources revealed.

Dr Reilly's top officials have repeatedly said such figures, which were imposed on them by Mr Howlin's department, are unrealistic and could jeopardise patient safety.

But Mr Howlin's department is adamant that the stated targets, outlined last July, must be achieved. They were holding the line last night that there can be no movement on those figures.

Irish Independent

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