Tuesday 22 October 2019

Hospital chiefs told 'balance the books' as HSE overrun hits €281m

Pressures: HSE chief Paul Reid wants measures put in place. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Pressures: HSE chief Paul Reid wants measures put in place. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Patients and the public are to increasingly feel the impact of an instruction to health managers to "balance the books" as the HSE has sunk €281m into the red.

HSE chief Paul Reid will reveal today he has directed senior managers in hospitals and community services to "identify and put in place additional measures to limit, to the greatest extent practical, any overruns within our operational services".

Measures to limit overruns include greater emphasis on controls around spending on agency workers, overtime and staffing levels.

The deficit up to July is lower than for the same months last year when the HSE was heading for a shortfall of €485m.

He will tell the Oireachtas Health Committee that the "greatest cost pressures within our operational services are in respect of providing residential placements to service users with an intellectual disability, and the provision of specialist emergency care, within the acute hospital setting, to a growing population of older and frailer patients".

"Costs in respect of pensions, State Claims Agency, the Primary Care Reimbursement Service and overseas treatment are largely driven by policy, legislation, demographics and the macro-economic situation and are not generally amenable to normal in-year financial management."

Mr Reid, who will give an update with Health Minister Simon Harris, will say he is chairing monthly financial management meetings with his senior staff.

Referring to winter planning to counter the impact of bad weather and higher admissions to hospital, he stressed it is "essential to ensure that service provider organisations are prepared for the additional seasonal pressures associated with the winter period".

Analysis has shown significant levels of growth in emergency department attendance and admissions over the past winter seasons, outstripping population growth by over 2.75pc. Planning, combined with the help of the public following winter season guidance, including getting the flu vaccine, will aim to provide "safe and efficient services".

Irish Independent

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