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Tuesday 20 March 2018

Reilly: medics must adjust to save key services

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

HEALTH Minister Dr James Reilly last night challenged medics to change their practices so frontline services can be protected in the face of Budget cutbacks.

The HSE was asked by Dr Reilly yesterday to redraft its national service plan -- effectively how it will spend the money allocated to it for 2012.

The existing plan envisages cuts in some hospitals of up to 12pc, mainly for those with a large deficit, but will average at around 6pc for most hospitals.

Dr Reilly indicated yesterday that the savings should lead to a change in work practices rather than a reduction in the services given to patients.

The Dublin North TD said: "A 5pc cut in budget means a 5pc cut in activity? That's not acceptable. We have to find other ways of achieving the budget requirements while at the same time maintaining services to the best extent possible.

"I acknowledge there may be some reductions in services but to start off the year with the white flag up saying there is going to be a reduction of Xpc, that's not acceptable to me."

But Fianna Fail health spokesman Billy Kelleher accused Dr Reilly of performing another "optical illusion" and said the minister is effectively asking his own secretary general to issue him with the report.

Dr Reilly scrapped the HSE board when he came into office, narrowing the separation between the Department of Health and the HSE.

The secretary general of the Department of Health, Michael Scanlan, is now the chairman of the HSE -- as well as being Dr Reilly's top civil servant.

It is also not the first time a health minister has asked for redrafts of the annual report.

"There is not an awful lot of communications. Every now and again Minister Reilly tries to flex his muscles with these optical illusions to make people think he is doing something," Mr Kelleher said.

Mr Kelleher said Mr Scanlan was Dr Reilly's "eyes and ears" on the HSE board and said if the minister didn't know what was in the HSE plan, then he didn't know what was going on in his own department.

But a spokesman for Dr Reilly defended the move and said "the minister is absolutely politically responsible for delivery of services of the right quality".

Meanwhile, Dr Reilly also insisted he has a good working relationship with his junior minister Roisin Shortall -- despite a spat between the pair late last year.

He said he was supported by Ms Shortall in Budget preparations, which saw Dr Reilly come in for criticism, including from Ms Shortall herself, for raising scenarios like charging €50 for medical cards in briefings to backbench Fine Gael and Labour TDs.

Irish Independent

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