#Open journalism No news is bad news

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support The Journal
Dublin: 16°C Sunday 26 June 2022
Advertisement

Cabinet to discuss scrapping hospital charges for under 16s

The Government plans to abolish charges for overnight stays as well as fees for day cases.

Ministers Stephen Donnelly and Darragh O'Brien are both bringing memos to Cabinet today.
Ministers Stephen Donnelly and Darragh O'Brien are both bringing memos to Cabinet today.
Image: Sam Boal

HEALTH MINISTER STEPHEN Donnelly will bring a memo to Cabinet today on scrapping some hospital charges for children under 16.

The Government plans to abolish charges for overnight stays as well as fees for day cases.

Charges for presentations to the Emergency Department will remain in place, it is understood.

The minister hopes the measure will reduce the financial burden on parents and aims to pass the legislation before the summer recess so charges can be removed immediately afterwards.

The statutory in-patient – an overnight/day case – charge is €80 per day. Under the current regulations, it is capped at a maximum of €800 per year. 

Opposition members previously highlighted concerns about patients being followed up by debt collectors for such charges

As well as reducing paediatric charges, a range of other initiatives on affordability are also being examined. 

The Department of Health said it has entered into talks with the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) in a bid to expand free GP care to those aged six and seven.

The Government has also moved to reduce the limit of the Drug Payment Scheme Threshold, from €114 last year to €80, as well as widening access to medical cards for the terminally ill. 

Speaking on his way into Cabinet this morning, Minister Donnelly said the statutory in-patient charge can be a “huge financial burden”.

“You’ve got parents or guardians already dealing with the fact that their child is sick, that their child is in hospital, and then they can be hit with a huge bill,” he told reporters. 

He said today’s measure is a “really important” next step in the move towards universal healthcare. 

Housing

Separately, Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien is expected to update Cabinet in relation to medium and longer term housing options in response to the Ukrainian refugee crisis.

The measures are in addition to those set out in Housing for All and are aimed at alleviating pressure on the wider housing system.

A programme to refurbish 2,500 vacant social homes is to be accelerated to help deal with the pressure being caused by providing accommodation for Ukrainian refugees. 

The existing Voids Stimulus Programme has been in operation since July 2020, with the government saying that an investment of €40 million saw the refurbishment of 2,500 homes in its first six months. 

Fresh funding for the scheme is now being earmarked to deliver more places for Ukrainian refugees. 

The plan includes an expanded acquisition programme where Local Authorities will have greater flexibilities to acquire certain homes, such as homes to move people and families out of homelessness and specific homes required for individuals with a disability or other priority needs.

The Department is keen to reiterate that these are measures aimed at the wider market and are not specific to Ukrainian refugees.

The minister will also update Cabinet that a cross-sectoral and cross departmental housing taskforce has been established to develop longer term housing options specifically in response to the war in Ukraine.

This taskforce is examining the medium term conversion of vacant buildings – both State-owned and private – to suitable accommodation specifically for Ukrainian refugees.

#Open journalism No news is bad news Support The Journal

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support us now

It will also look at the longer-term activation of planning permissions which have not yet commenced. 

The housing minister has emergency powers available to him under existing legislation whereby certain planning and procurement requirements can be exempted where required to speed up delivery in emergency situations.

Government spending

Government spending in the first 3 months of the year was €600 million below expectations and 3.2% below the same period last year, Cabinet will hear today.

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath will explain the change reflects the difference in spending on Covid-19 measures and the emerging economic recovery.

However, he is expected to warn that pressures remain on public finances.

€1.5 billion of Contingency Fund that was earmarked at the time of the Budget has been accounted for to meet the economic impact as Covid supports are wound down, possible pandemic-related challenges next winter, and Ireland’s response to the Ukrainian humanitarian crisis, which is likely to incur €3 billion.

He will highlight the importance of value for money in delivering supports for Ukrainian refugees, particularly in sourcing accommodation.

Ministers will also be updated on the Brexit Adjustment Reserve, which Budget 2022 made €1.1 billion available for under the EU’s Brexit Adjustment Reserve.

Secretaries General of the various government departments will be asked to identify sufficient eligible expenditure in their departments to ensure Ireland draws down its full allocation and any additional funding that becomes available.

Read next:

COMMENTS (17)

This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
write a comment

    Leave a commentcancel