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Health Spending

HSE saving measures to target older people and those with disabilities 'in order to break even'

The HSE boss has denied it is undertaking any cost-cutting measures.

THE BOSS OF the HSE has denied that it is engaged in any “cost-cutting” stating that health services are being delivered within the budget allocated by government. 

Today’s comments by the Chief Executive of the HSE Paul Reid come as official minutes of a meeting of the budgetary oversight group on health spending show that during a discussion in May on cost-saving measures “it was acknowledged that further actions are required in particular with respect to primary care reimbursement service, disabilities, older persons and acute hospitals in order to break even”.

The minutes noted that the HSE “talked through the saving measures 2019 document” and noted that the HSE was to share with the Health Department the estimated savings that needed to be made for the remainder of the year and also to “show what is realistic and credible at this stage of the year”. 

The senior officials also noted that there were “serious concerns” over staffing increases in the health service. 

When asked today about the documents and what savings the HSE are targeting, Reid denied that any cost-cutting was taking place, stating that the service plan is being delivered within budget. 

Appearing before an Oireachtas health committee recently, the new chief executive said that one of his main tasks is getting the overall health budget under control. 

“We cannot sustain the level of overrun which happened last year,” he said. 

When questioned about one aspect of the health budget that impacts the elderly, home help hours, Reid said a certain budget was allocated to home help hours for this year, and the HSE would not be breaching it. 

Before the Dáil summer recess, a number of opposition TDs stated that there is a freeze on home help packages. At the time, Reid said: 

To achieve this local managers must ensure that the total number of hours being provided does not exceed targeted levels. This may impact on their ability to provide new hours into the system.
It is not correct to say that no new clients will be allocated home help hours for the next five months. The allocation of new hours will be based on client’s needs and the resources available.
Last month, reported that almost 1,000 more people are waiting on home help hours since March of this year, according to the latest HSE figures. 

Sinn Féin spokesperson for Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, Pearse Doherty said the meeting documents reveal that the government plans to control spending by making cuts to essential services.

Doherty said the saving measures include the “low hanging fruit” of disability and older person services, such as the training allowance for school-leavers with disabilities that is due to be axed in September.

He criticised that a number of documents, such as monthly meeting reports, were not released under his Freedom of Information Act request. 

“The health service is funded by taxpayers. It is our right to know how this money is being spent, and to know if vital services to the vulnerable are being cut as a cost-saving exercise.

“I am appealing this decision and call on the government to release these documents immediately in the public interest,” he said.

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