herald

Saturday 10 December 2016

Leo Varadkar: Hospitals must 'get a grip on runaway spending'

HEALTH CRISIS

Leo Varadkar
Leo Varadkar

HEALTH Minister Leo Varadkar has warned hospital bosses to "get a grip" on out-of-control budgets.

The Fine Gael politician yesterday revealed that hospitals hired more staff and spent more money in January and February - despite a drop in patient numbers.

Dr Varadkar said all hospitals have seen an increase in their budgets this year but their respective management teams are failing to get their finances under control.

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"The number of people attending emergency departments went down in January. The number of elective admissions went down. So, what happened in January and February is that hospitals hired more staff, spent more money and [had] fewer patients," Dr Varadkar said in the Dail.

"That's not an acceptable situation. And it's very important that hospital managers and chief financial officers understand that and get a grip on that over the next few months," he added.

The remarks by the minister came as Mr Varadkar's predecessor accused leading members of the No campaign in the Marriage Equality Referendum of using children as "pawns" in order to spread fear.

Children's Minister James Reilly expressed concern that commentary from the No campaign will impact negatively on children who are uncomfortable with their sexuality, adding: "There is nothing to fear from allowing people to marry those whom they love."

Addressing a seminar organised by the Adoption Authority of Ireland in Dublin, the Fine Gael deputy leader accused opponents of the referendum of using children as "pawns".

"Children should not be used as pawns by campaigners," Dr Reilly said.

"This referendum is about equality. It is about treating everybody equally. It is about allowing everybody to marry the person that they love," he added.

The Dublin North TD used his speech to highlight the "vulnerable group" of children who are uncomfortable with their sexual orientation.

He said that charity Childline received almost 30,000 calls from children last year who were distressed about their sexuality.

"Children who are uncomfortable about their sexuality are awaiting the result. We know this is a vulnerable group in our society.

"A recent study clearly highlighted the impact that feeling different has on them," he said.

"They are 20 times more likely to drink alcohol frequently; 20 times more likely to use marijuana; and, most shockingly and disturbingly, 14 times more likely to attempt suicide."

The referendum on Marriage Equality is on May 22.

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