Sunday 25 February 2018

Leo 'Happy' as health budget 'all but sorted' for next year

Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar
Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar
Daniel McConnell

Daniel McConnell

Health Minister Leo Varadkar is said to be a "happy man" as he has secured additional funding for health services in 2016.

Mr Varadkar and his officials have been locked in intense talks with Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin in a bid to finalise the Budget allocation.

The minister has remained tight lipped in recent weeks as he sought to get a "realistic budget" having warned that a failure to properly resource would endanger patient safety.

The Irish Independent has learned that following intense talks on Wednesday, agreement has been reached on a €200m increase to the health budget.

While this is a long way short of the €1.9bn extra requested by the Health Service Executive (HSE) earlier this year, Mr Varadkar will get a supplementary estimate in excess of €650m, sources have said, by the end of this year.

"Leo is happy with how things are, and to my mind health is pretty much done," said one minister familiar with the process.

"Great progress was made on health yesterday with it getting about €200m extra for next year," said a senior Government figure.

Figures from the Department of Health have shown that an increase of €200m is required and will be required every year to meet the demands of the ageing population.

"I was left with the impression that Leo was very happy after the talks," added the source.

Officials from both departments are to continue finalising their discussions into the weekend, but last night it was understood that there was agreement in principle on both sides.

Separately, Fine Gael have appeared to have lost the battle on getting a €5 increase to the old age pension.

There was strong support for an increase, but Tanaiste Joan Burton and her officials have refused to accede to their demands, instead focusing on other measures for old people.

Ms Burton is to bring forward a "very generous" package for pensioners, which Fine Gael are happy with.

It is understood that Ms Burton is prioritising the restoration of the Christmas Bonus which she sees as a major boost to pensioners.

She is also likely to increase the Living Alone allowance but late last night, it emerged that Ms Burton is seeking to increase the €1,375 respite care grant.

The Irish Independent has also learned that Education Minister will be able to reduce the pupil teacher ratio by one pupil.

Irish Independent

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