PUBLIC EXPENDITURE AND Reform Minister Brendan Howlin has insisted that the HSE will make the savings the government has committed to in the health sector despite reports that its financial deficit has hit €280 million for the first five months of the year.
Howlin was speaking after a report in the Irish Times on Saturday which said that the Health Service Executive (HSE) had informed the Department of Health that its financial deficit could hit €500 million by the end of the year.
Health Minister James Reilly held talks with Howlin, Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Finance Minister Michael Noonan last week about the overspend and the Labour Party minister insisted that targets set by the budget would be met.
“We have to have control of expenditure and I have had discussions with the Department of Health,” Howlin told RTÉ’s This Week programme, saying concerns about the overspend were echoed by Reilly.
“We are taking measures to ensure that the decisions made to make the savings required across all the areas the Government determined last year will be fully implemented by the HSE,” he added.
Howlin also said that despite concerns about the overspend, not only would savings targets be met but additional posts that were promised in mental health and primary care areas would be delivered.
“As far I’m concerned all those posts will be delivered,” he told the programme and repeating his view that savings targets would be reached: “We will drive to achieve those and we will achieve them.”
On Morning Ireland today, Fianna Fáil’s health spokesperson Billy Kelleher said that the news about the potential deficit was “very alarming” and was heavily critical of the government.
“The broader issue here that the Budget was presented last year was almost fraudulent because we knew the savings that had been identified could not be achieved,” he told the programme.
Kelleher said that he had warned that raising money through charges on private health insurers and reducing the cost of medicine could not be achieved.
He warned that failure to address the problem would result in hospital closures and added that the HSE needed to be less reliant on agency staff in nursing and other frontline services.