independent

Monday 21 April 2014

Reilly row over HSE plan change

Opposition claims original health service strategy was altered to hide severity of cuts

Minister for Health  James Reilly  pictured during a media briefing on the package of Measures to deal with Alcohol misuse which is to be incorporated into a Public Health bill. The briefing took place at Government Buildings.
Pic Frank Mc Grath 
14/10/13
James Reilly: pressure

HEALTH Minister James Reilly is under pressure to explain why last-minute changes were made to the HSE's service plan after ministers warned the original version would lead to political uproar.

Fianna Fail said the plan was changed before it was officially published to hide the severity of cuts in the health service next year, while Sinn Fein said the actual cuts required in the service were now €1bn, and not €619m as flagged.

A Sunday newspaper reveal-ed that the original text of the HSE service plan from chief executive Tony O'Brien read: "It will not be possible in 2014 to fully meet all of the growing demands placed on the health services." This was changed to read: "It will be very challenging in 2014 to fully meet all of the growing demands."

Another statement read: "The level of investment required to meet many of the critical service priorities... cannot be met". It was changed in the published version to read "some service priorities... may not be met".

Mr O'Brien said that the changes to the plan were made following a cabinet discussion, which "changed the context in which the service plan was to be approved".

"Minister Reilly contacted me after the Cabinet, told me about the decisions. We discussed the changes that might be necessary in order to reflect those changes," he said.

"I proposed the changes, he agreed them, and the plan was published.

DRAMATIC

"It's nowhere near as dramatic as it seems. The job of the HSE is to provide a draft service plan which conforms to the Budget decisions. It would have been very strange for the service plan's language to be the same before as after (the cabinet discussions).

"Government made very important decisions. I'm very glad we have the outcome we do."

He added that there was no question the changes would result in his resignation.

The published plan outlines €619m in cuts which have to be made to the health budget for 2014, and the original document allegedly outlined cuts of €1bn.

Fianna Fail health spokesman Billy Kelleher said the report raised "serious questions" about the accuracy of what people were being told about the health system.

"By forcing the presentation of the HSE Service Plan to be changed for political purposes, the Government have also implicated senior HSE executives," he said.

"I am calling on Minister Reilly to make a statement and spell out exactly how the savings he is targeting are actually going to be achieved."

Sinn Fein health spokesman Caoimhghin O Caolain said the revelation meant the health funding plans of the Coalition had "zero credibility".

The plan was approved by Mr Reilly last Tuesday and originally envisaged cuts of €666m in the Budget.

It fell to €619m, after €46m in funding was transferred from the Department of Social Protection and €1m from another, unidentified, source.

A spokesman for Mr Reilly said that the changes to the language in the service plan were made possible by virtue of what was approved by Cabinet last Tuesday.

"The Cabinet decided that Health would receive an extra €47m -- €46m from Social Protection and €1m from elsewhere -- and approved a budget management strategy that informed the final draft of the service plan."

Irish Independent

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