Sunday 23 October 2016

Health service facing cash crisis

Billy Kelleher
Billy Kelleher

More than 82pc of annual funding for agency staff at the Health Service Executive (HSE) has already been spent in the first five months of this year, Fianna Fail’s health spokesman Billy Kelleher has warned.

“For the HSE to have spent €138m out of total agency budget of €165m in the first five months of the year is an extremely large portion of a critical budget to be gone before half the year was over,” he said.

“The HSE is clearly burning through cash to try to keep the health service ticking over. This highlights the fact that the budget for the health service is just not grounded in reality. If we’re at this point now, I have very real concerns about the winter months ahead,” he said.

“We know the HSE will run out of money before the year is out and will need another massive cash injection, which will only increase pressure to constrain costs.

“The HSE has warned that the medical staff portion of its agency budget is the part that is under the greatest pressure,” Mr Kelleher said.

The HSE has warned of its inability to attract and retain frontline staff, he said.

Mr Kelleher said the Government had presided over a decline in the health service and it was no longer seen as a viable career option.


He pointed out that August is traditionally one of the quietest months for the health service. He then cited figures issued by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation when he questioned how Health Minister Varadkar could stand over a situation where more than 6,500 patients were being treated on trolleys in hospitals last month.

“That’s 40pc higher than the same month last year. What kind of figures are we going to be looking for November and December,” he said.

“We simply have not managed to get to a point where patients are getting through the health system. Many patients are still staying in a hospital setting much longer than is needed,” he said.

The HSE informed Mr Kelleher that acute and social care services have experienced exceptional pressures due to the very high levels of delayed discharges.

This has hit agency costs while the HSE struggles to open and maintain additional bed capacity, he said.

Despite it being a priority issue for the minister, this problem has persisted even in the quieter months for the health service, Mr Kelleher added.

“I know there is a lot of work being done by the Department of Health and the HSE at the moment on the health service plan and budget for next year.

“Minister Varadkar needs to be leading that process. It is critical that the health budget and the service plan for next year are grounded in reality.

“We need a health budget and a service plan that are credible and deliver for patients. We have seen this government produce laughable and unrealistic health budgets every year for the last four years which run into major trouble after only a matter of months,” he said.

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