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Budget 2017 fails primary care: New Primary Care Centres but no additional staff – O’Reilly

12 October, 2016 - by Louise O'Reilly TD

Responding to the absence of measures to enhance primary care provision in Budget 2017, Sinn Féin Health Spokesperson Louise O’Reilly TD has hit out at Minister Harris for failing to provide additional staff and resources at primary care level.

Deputy O’Reilly said:

“We hear much of the shift to primary care. The programme for partnership government is littered with references to enhancing primary care, but this is not a Budget that moves to do that.

“Often, media headlines concentrate on the hospital waiting lists. They fail to look at the everyday services that people are desperately waiting for. In July this year there were 346 people waiting for an initial speech and language therapy assessment for over a year and 1,364 waiting for initial therapy for over a year. There were 491 waiting the same time for an initial physiotherapy assessment and a staggering 4,481 waiting for an initial occupational therapy assessment.

“This came two months after the Minister announced investment by the European Investment Bank to invest in 14 primary care centres. However, after numerous PQs, I have found out that not a single one of these new primary care centres is planned to have additional staff. In fact, the standard HSE response was: ‘as these services will be relocating from their existing bases, no additional staff will be employed’.

“The Minister said yesterday that there was €18.5 million to support the development of primary care services. Yet there are no HSE plans to recruit new staff to the primary care centres. Resourcing goes beyond building new centres alone. 

“If primary care was so important to this Government, then why are they not extending capacity by expanding staff and services? With no additional staff, how are we to see reductions in waiting lists? How do you expect to take pressure off the acute hospitals? How do you expect to have a greater range of services in the community if you aren’t hiring or budgeting for them?

“The persistent under-resourcing of primary and community care means people end up in hospital when they should and could be cared for in the community.

“If the Minister was serious about primary care he would have introduced a package of measures to properly resource it. He would have made sure that CHOs did not have to go with the begging bowl to the HSE making ‘a business case’, for vital staff like a psychologist for under 18s in North Dublin.

“Sinn Féin proposed employing 600 additional front line staff including speech and language therapists, occupational therapists, physios and psychologists at a cost of €30.4 million. This is what is needed to compliment the new primary care centres- the staff to provide the services at community care that are needed.” 

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