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Health Budget 2015 a 'missed opportunity' - Ó Caoláin

15 October, 2014 - by Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Health, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD said that yesterday’s health Budget was yet another missed opportunity for the government to make real improvements in the health service. Speaking in the Dáil today the Cavan/Monaghan TD highlighted the deficiencies in the Budget, following Minister Leo Varadkar’s speech.

Deputy Ó Caoláin stated:

“This Budget benefits the better off while it does nothing to improve our failing health service. In reality the health service is being thrown a lifeline to help keep its head above water for another year. Despite minimalist measures, tweaking here, tinkering there, we have yet another missed opportunity with Budget 2015.

“We are once again promised the roll-out of free GP coverage to the under sixes and the over 70s. This had already been promised for delivery in this year. We are told by Minister Howlin of an unspecified number of additional staff in the mental health services including psychologists and counsellors in the primary care setting. An additional €25 million is signalled to deal with delayed discharges from hospitals. But will more nursing staff be recruited? Will more beds, including step down beds, be provided?

“I note nothing promised to target the increased waiting lists including outpatient waiting lists that have been massaged by the HSE.

“At best Budget 2015 seeks to meet only the current cost of the existing configuration of our health delivery systems with an additional €305 million provided for health expenditure in 2015, coupled with a hope and a prayer of realising a further €330million from speeded-up payments due.

“There is, as yet, no indication of any intent to recruit the much needed additional frontline health staff including consultants, NCHDs and nurses nor any practical investment in our emergency services, including additional ambulance and first responder staff.

“There is no specific break down of the €3 billion for older people and disability services. It is not clear which part of this is new spend, if any.

“There is no commitment to reduce, let alone do away with prescription charges for medical card holders, a charge former Minister Reilly had previously railed against and promised to abolish. Sinn Féin has laid out in our fully costed Alternative Budget measures how these gaps in service can be addressed.

“We had proposed increasing funding to disability services, for the recruitment of, among other things, community physios, speech and language therapists and occupational therapists, by €31.3 million and also to put in place an additional 1,000 nurses and midwives posts at a cost of €40 million. Sinn Féin had set aside an additional €18 million for suicide prevention and awareness and for the roll-out of Suicide Crisis Assessment Nurses and counselling in primary care, and liaison nurses in A&E.

“The Fine Gael and Labour Government are trying to sell this budget as something of a give-away, but the vast majority of measures announced only go a little way towards reversing the deep cuts made earlier in the life of this Government and by the previous Government over the last seven austerity budgets.

“It is clear that the crisis in our health services is going to continue. We have a new face at the helm of the Health Department but the same old failed policies continue to hold sway.”

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