A blueprint for greatly reduced health services in 2014 is how Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has described the HSE Service Plan published today. He said that the spending reduction of €619 million for the year ahead is unsustainable and will push our public health services into deeper crisis.
“The HSE Service Plan 2014 implements a spending reduction of €619 million for our public health services next year. This is a huge reduction, despite the Government spin that it is less than signalled in the Budget.
“The reality is, as acknowledged in the Plan, that when this Service Plan is taken into account almost €4 billion will have been taken out of our public health services since 2008.
“The health services have already been cut to the bone and the knife is still being wielded. The ongoing recruitment embargo and job cuts will have a seriously damaging effect. A further 2,600 whole time equivalents are to go in 2014, on top of the 12,500 that have gone since 2007.
“The entire management of health funding and health services by this Minister and by this Government is called into question by their handling of primary care. Where did they get the Budget figure of €113 million in cuts to medical cards, now, they claim, reduced to €23 million?
“We are still facing a budget reduction for medical cards in 2014 and, as in 2013, vulnerable people are set to lose discretionary medical cards. Just yesterday we heard that another very sick child with an aggressive childhood cancer, Merryn Lacey of Dublin, has been denied a medical card.
“On the one hand the plan talks of ‘the vision for
primary care services
whereby the health of the population is managed, as far as possible, within a primary care setting’ but then it cuts €294 million out of primary care. While the provision of GP cards for children of 5 and under is welcome it is in the context of overall primary care cuts.
“The Government is to take an additional €43 million out of the pockets of medical card holders in increased prescription charges, compared to €50 million saved through generic substitution and reference pricing.
“I am very concerned that the Service Plan states that no additional funding is being provided for new nursing home places in 2014. There is already a huge waiting list for places under the so-called ‘Fair Deal’ scheme and this Plan spells misery for thousands of older people, many of whom are occupying hospital beds because they can no longer be cared for in their homes.
“The funding for bilateral cochlear implants, while a welcome recognition of need, falls far short of the estimated establishment costs and the hoped for roll-out in 2014, remembering that for some the window for success is limited as time marches on.
“The Plan raises many questions. For example, what is meant by €108 million in ‘unspecified pay savings’? And how is the predicted shortfall in provision for pension lump sums for retirees going to be dealt with?
“Overall this Service Plan is a blueprint for greatly reduced health services in 2014 and is a damning indictment of Minister James Reilly and of this Coalition Government.”