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Health minister says frontline services will be hit by budget cuts

James Reilly insisted that the effects of the three-quarters-of-a-billion euro in cuts to the health sector would be “mitigated”.

James Reilly
James Reilly
Image: Niall Carson/PA Archive/Press Association Images

JAMES REILLY HAS said that while frontline services will be hit by health service budget cuts, the effects will be “mitigated”.

The Health Minister was speaking following the announcement of the Health Service Executive’s (HSE) National Service Plan yesterday. With €750 million cut from the health budget there will be as many as 555 nursing home beds closed and 3,200 people leaving the health service in Ireland.

Reilly admitted that frontline services would be impacted upon but insisted that in rejecting the first proposed National Service Plan before Christmas, he had “been able to mitigate that in a major way”.

“I’ve said all along that frontline services are going to be affected but we’re going to mitigate that as much as possible,” he told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

I mean I was accused in the past of shouting wolf and what I managed to do is knock a few teeth out of that wolf’s mouth but he’s still going to bite and it’s going to be sore.

Reilly insisted that despite budget cuts, screening for colon cancer has been delayed by only a few months whereas originally it would have been delayed by a year under the initial plan. “I insisted upon that,” he said of the change.

The Health Minister said he envisioned use of intermediate care facilities and that as a result more elderly people would be looked after at home. The Service Plan included a cut of 555 public nursing home beds.

Of the plans to shed 3,200 people from the health by the end of February he said there was “enough flexibility in the moratorium to move people” to ensure there was no shortage in one particular sector of the health service.

He admitted there would be an impact from the budget cuts but said the government and his department had no choice: “There is going to be an impact, this country is bankrupt.

Were in terrible trouble, health is second biggest spending department and we have to take a certain amount of responsibility in relation addressing that deficit.

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Reilly also addressed the issue of the government having to inform the European Commission that it was not in a position to comply with rules requiring junior doctors to work no more than an average of 48 hours per week.

RTÉ reported that the government had told the EC it was not in position to comply with regulations for three more years. Junior doctors can in some instances work as many as 60 hours a week in the current circumstances.

“This is historical, there’s no question. You know that last year we had tremendous difficulty recruiting staff,” Reilly said. But he said that the government was facing “a myriad of problems” in the health service and this was “but one of them” that he was “very conscious of”.

HSE to close 555 nursing home beds and cut hospital budgets

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Hugh O'Connell

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