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Source of health funding crisis is Government not Croke Park Agreement – Ó Caoláin

25 June, 2012 - by Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD

Commenting on the leaked correspondence from Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Brendan Howlin to Health Minister James Reilly on the “over-run” in health spending, the Sinn Féin health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD said:

“The funding crisis in the public health services has its source in fundamentally flawed Government policy and not in the Croke Park Agreement. We are now seeing an effort to target the pay of people working in the health services as part of the austerity drive. If implemented such pay cuts would be imposed alongside cuts in services for patients, not instead of them as Minister Reilly is pretending.

“The continuing recruitment embargo is a false economy as it has led to increased use of expensive agency staff and to more over-time working by existing staff.

“The Croke Park Agreement provides for flexible working and this should be used to the maximum. Due to the continuing cuts and the recruitment embargo, staff are under severe pressure but have shown flexibility. One of the main drivers of costs in the health services is not the Croke Park Agreement but the consultants’ contracts which keep pay for top earners in the health service at excessive levels.

“Less attention has been paid to the admission by Minister of State for Health, Roísin Shortall, that between January and May this year 296 public residential care beds have been shut and that the Department of Health does not have a way of identifying the number of beds opened or closed in the private sector in the same period. There are over 600 public hospital beds occupied by people whose treatment is complete but whose discharge is delayed, mainly because they are older people and there are no care home places or step-down facilities for them. With care home beds being closed and acute hospital beds also closed – over 2,400 at present – the system is being contracted at both ends.

“Clearly Minister Reilly and his colleagues are continuing the failure of their predecessors and are driving the health service into deeper crisis.”

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