Tuesday 20 February 2018

Department of Health has not cooked books for budget 2012 – Taoiseach

Lyndsey Telford

THE TAOISEACH has denied accusations that the Department of Health cooked its books in estimating its 2012 budget.

Enda Kenny insisted Health Minister James Reilly was working hard to cut costs after it emerged the Health Service Executive (HSE) faces a €500 million deficit throughout the rest of the year.

"It's a fact of life that every minister has to work very hard to see proposals for their particular departments are adhered to," said Mr Kenny.

"He is working very hard both with the department and the HSE to address the deficit."

The Taoiseach said the HSE has already outlined approaches to deal with the €0.5 billion shortfall, including potential plans to reduce the amount of agency staff it employs and making reforms to the Croke Park Agreement, which would include more effective use of human resources.

However, he said he recognised this would pose some "serious challenges" for the organisation.

Fianna Fail leader and former health minister Micheal Martin had accused Mr Reilly of setting a health budget back in December that was never achievable.

He said Mr Reilly had failed to get his act together by the end of last year and that he submitted false figures.

The Cork South Central TD warned that the minister's "dishonesty" would result in the department having to cut frontline services as it grapples to break even with the deficit.

He said the public could face potential bed and ward closures in hospitals across the country.

"The failure to implement measures announced in the December budget in relation to health is one thing, but it seems clear now that those figures were never achievable," said Mr Martin.

"The books were cooked. A very false and dishonest estimate was made for health."

The health budget announced more than six months ago included outlined plans for a new pricing agreement for drug payments.

It was proposed that €75 million could be saved by charging private patients to use public beds.

Plans to reduce agency staffing costs by 50pc were also drawn up.

But Mr Martin said none of these intentions have come to fruition.

"The act wasn't got together at the time of the budget and false figures that were completely unachievable were put into that health estimate," added Mr Martin.

"We are now facing the prospect of ward closures and bed closures because of the failings of the minister."

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