Wednesday 19 June 2019

Minister will seek to avoid impact on services in bid to plug health overrun

Michael McGrath TD. Picture: Michael O'Sullivan/OSM Photo
Michael McGrath TD. Picture: Michael O'Sullivan/OSM Photo
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

The Government will try to avoid cutting back on services and capital investment in its bid to plug the massive overspend in health.

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe came under pressure from opposition politicians to explain the overrun at the Oireachtas Budgetary Oversight Committee.

Fianna Fáil's Michael McGrath referred to reports that it could be between €600m and €1bn in a "worst-case scenario" and asked how Mr Donohoe intended to address it.

Mr Donohoe said the sum stood at €343m at the end of August but refused to be tied down on what the ultimate figure for the year will be.

He said it is still being worked on and he expects to be able to confirm the sum nearer Budget day. He said under-spends in other departments and tax revenue would be used to address the overrun.

He said he is not intending to make decisions that impact on service delivery or planned capital projects elsewhere.

Sinn Féin TD Jonathan O'Brien put it to him that the fourth quarter of the year sees increased costs in the acute hospital sector and asked Mr Donohoe if he was concerned by this.

Mr Donohoe said that he is, and that is why he is "taking care" in relation to naming the figure for the overrun. He said recruitment accelerates in the fourth quarter, and that becomes a consequence for Budget 2019.

He said the Government is trying to get the balance right between recruitment commitments and ensuring any decisions made this year "don't affect service provision given the great distress that can cause for our vulnerable citizens".

Separately, Labour TD Joan Burton asked about a review of the €500,000 cap on bankers' pay. She asked if "those people in sharp suits are worth half a million each?"

Mr Donohoe said the cap is an issue for State-owned banks competing with foreign-owned institutions in Ireland. He said the cap is being assessed and he is "under no illusion" that changes would lead to "considerable public concern".

Irish Independent

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