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We must become better stewards of our health services – O’Reilly

16 June, 2016 - by Louise O'Reilly TD

Sinn Féin TD and Health Spokesperson Louise O’Reilly said that the old way of approaching the health service was not cost effective, nor beneficial to patients, saying that the Department was too reliant on agency staff and was still paying too much for on-patent medicines by international standards.

Speaking on the revised estimates for the Department of Health, Deputy O’Reilly said:

“The fact is that we must become better stewards of our health spending. This is not about pursuing efficiencies in order to facilitate cuts to the overall health budget. Rather, it is about ensuring we deliver the best care possible from the funds available. 

“It is clear, that the state health service has a limited and finite budget. This will always be the case. Therefore it is important that issues of cost effectiveness and value for money are considered.

“In the first instance, we all know that a moratorium on recruitment created a health system propped up by expensive agency staff. We need to ensure that the HSE reduces reliance on agency staff and makes permanent posts attractive for qualified applicants.

“The current approach is clearly costing us dearly, and not just financially. In financial terms, in the period of January to May, over €68m was spent on agency staff. That is 2378 whole-time equivalents. The Minister has agreed that they don’t represent value for money, but what is he doing about it?

“We also cannot escape the undeniable fact that we are still paying too much for on-patent medicines by international standards and our system still uses far too much of them. The Minister, the Department of Health and the HSE, and the pharmaceutical industry have clear responsibility. The Irish Government, the EU or the international community should not allow pharmaceutical companies to hold citizens or states to ransom.

“We have proposed a range of measures in our ‘Better 4 Health’ policy document that would address the serial impasses in relation to access to new medicines.”

Deputy O’Reilly also welcomed the restoration of mental health funding but criticised the Government for reallocating the funding in the first place:

“While it is welcome that the €12million plundered from the mental health budget earlier this year has been restored, I would take issue with references being made to this restoration in Government press releases that this is ‘additional funding’. This is not additional funding. This was funding that was callously removed from this area and which is now being replenished after a public outcry.

“The very act initially, of itself, has caused serious concerned that the HSE will again raid mental health budgets to help plug the shortfalls in other areas. We cannot have open season on the funding of our vital health services.” 

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