Friday 23 August 2019

HSE deficit for this year 'already tops €82m'

Paul Reid, director general of the Health Service Executive
Paul Reid, director general of the Health Service Executive

Cormac McQuinn and Eilish O'Regan

The health service is already facing a deficit for the year of more than €82m, the Dáil's public spending watchdog will be told today.

Meanwhile, new HSE boss Paul Reid is to warn that senior managers that do not control costs will be "held to account".

The health service has been beset by overspends in recent years, and the Dáil's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) will today examine the HSE's 2018 financial statements.

Now, Mr Reid's statement to the committee outlines how the organisation's financial position as of March shows a "revenue deficit" of €82.7m.

It comes amid fears about pressures on the HSE's €446m homecare budget, which could see a major slowdown in the allocation of home help hours and homecare packages to new applicants in the coming months.

The deficit is also likely to see hospitals having to rein in some services, which could affect patients on waiting lists.

Mr Reid's statement says the €82.7m deficit represents 2.2pc of the available budget. He will say that €44.8m is due to greater-than-expected expenditure on operational service areas.

That includes spending on community services, mostly for people with disabilities and other spending in acute hospitals.

There is a deficit of €38m in "pensions and demand-led areas". Mr Reid is to say that options to limit deficits in these areas are being explored.

However, he will say that these options are primarily driven by legislation, policy and demographic factors, and are "therefore not generally amenable to normal management control measures".

On the organisation's financial management for 2019, Mr Reid will say that the HSE's first priority is "to maximise the safety of the services it can deliver, within the available budget".

He says delivering health service priorities will "require a significantly enhanced focus on financial management".

Mr Reid will outline how this "includes better controls on the management of agency, overtime and overall staffing levels and pay costs".

He adds: "Senior management will be supported and held to account in this regard."

Mr Reid and officials from the Department of Health will appear before the PAC today, where TDs will also examine a section of the Comptroller and Auditor General's 2017 report that deals with the control of private patient activity in acute public hospitals.

The committee is also expected to probe expenditure on medical negligence cases, primary care reimbursement services and the Fair Deal scheme for nursing homes.

PAC chairman and Fianna Fáil TD Seán Fleming last night said: "The committee will be keen to examine why the Department of Health/HSE continually requires supplementary estimates each year.

"We will also examine their oversight role in respect of their own expenditure, and the agencies they support with public monies."

Irish Independent

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