Thursday 23 November 2017

Health to get €450m bailout as ministers revise budgets

Simon Harris . Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Simon Harris . Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

Niall O'Connor and Kevin Doyle

New Health Minister Simon Harris is expected to be given a €450m bailout to prevent a cutback in hospital services before the end of the year.

The Cabinet will today revise some spending estimates made during last year's Budget in an effort to prevent shortfalls in certain areas.

Health and Justice have been identified by ministers as the two departments in particular need of extra funding.

Mr Harris has already publicly revealed the HSE overran its budget by €120m in the first three months of the year.

It is expected that as part of a revised expenditure plan for the Department of Health, the mental health budget will be fully restored - just months after it emerged €12m had been transferred to other health spending. Mr Harris is understood to have argued that it should be reset to its previous amount of €35m.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has also been in talks with her counterpart in the Department of Expenditure and Public Reform, Paschal Donohoe, in recent weeks with a view to securing more money, primarily for garda overtime.

The recent spate of gangland attacks in Dublin have made this a priority for the Cabinet and Ms Fitzgerald has committed to provide whatever resources gardaí feel are necessary to end the Kinahan-Hutch feud.

It had been estimated that €41.9m would be spent on garda overtime this year, but the minister has said that the cost has gone "way beyond that" in the past.

"We will put whatever resources are needed into this current challenge," she said last week.

Government sources said the exact sums for both health and justice were still being considered by Mr Donohoe last night.

His spokesperson said no announcement would be made until talks between ministers were finalised.

As well as covering the current overrun in the health service, his new budget will have to cater for Mr Harris's plans for a winter initiative to deal with the overcrowding crisis in emergency departments.

This is likely to receive a budget of around €40m.

And additional money will also be announced for the home help scheme.

Meanwhile, the Dáil's new committee on budget scrutiny will meet today to discuss the Government's proposals for a year-round budgetary process.

It includes plans for a Summer Economic Statement later this month and a mid-year spending review that will be announced in July.

Irish Independent

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