- Posted September 2, 2012 by
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Coalition Revolt As Labour Party Chairman Says Health Cuts Are Unacceptable
By J. P. Anderson
Labour Party chairman Colm Keaveney said the €130 million in cuts to home help and services for high-dependency patients announced last week are unacceptable and said he expected the Taoiseach to review the decision at a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday.
Speaking on RTÉ radio this afternoon, Mr Keaveney said the cuts were unjust and should be reviewed by the HSE and the Minister for Health James Reilly "as a matter of urgency."
“It is my belief that we can identify savings of €130 million rather than focusing on an unjust cut. These cuts are in my view unacceptable and the Minister and HSE should review them as a matter of urgency,” he said.
He said members of the Labour Party had contacted him with alarm and concern after the cuts were announced.
“I understand there is a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday and I would hope and expect the Taoiseach would ensure we would review this situation to the satisfaction of vulnerable people who are concerned about the delivery of services,” he said.
Mr Keaveney would not be drawn on what Labour will do if the Taoiseach does not reverse the cuts.
“I have high expectations the cuts as presented will be seen as unacceptable. It isn’t unknown that Ministers have reversed decisions. It takes gravitas and political intuition to realise this cut as presented is unacceptable. We’ve seen major decisions reversed in respect of the fairness of them.”
Asked whether he was confident Dr Reilly was the best man for the job of Minister for Health, Mr Keaveney said he was confident in the appointment of Tony O’Brien, HSE director general designate.
“The appointment of Tony O’Brien in the recent past has gone some way in addressing a deficit in relation to the type of drilling down into budgets that’s required to have a fair and just transparent approach where we have clarity in relation to the delivery of services,” he said.
Speaking on the same programme, Mr O’Brien said the cuts announced were necessary to bring what would otherwise be a €500 million overrun in the health budget under control. He said there were possibilities to make savings without directly affecting patient care.
“We will continue the search for any other measure that can delivery definitively. However all measures are on the table until we can find an alternative. These are cuts which will have an adverse impact. But it will be managed very tightly. Nobody as yet has lost any service."
He said he wanted to reassure people that the tap had not “been turned off” on home care packages and home help.
“The difference is instead of 5300 home care packages in use at any one time there will, for the remainder of the year, be 5100. That is regrettable but it will be managed very sensitively on a case by case basis to ensure that those who need the supports most will retain them.”
He said the HSE was involved in negotiations on generic pricing with drug companies but that the issue of consultant’s pay was part of the Croke Park arrangement and therefore not in the control of the HSE.
He said the Department of Health was seeking to pursue contracts for new consultants.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin described Mr Keaveney's statement as extraordinary.
"Where have they been for the last 12 months? We’ve been warning in Fianna Fáil about the crisis in the health service. It's an extraordinary shambles. And I think the Labour Party knows this," he said.
On Friday last Labour T. D. Eric Byrne issued the following statement in relation to the situation about entitlements to medical cards.
I would like to welcome the corrected figures issued this afternoon by the HSE in relation to levels of demand for medical cards. The inaccurate claim by the HSE yesterday that there was an increase in demand by 125,000 for medical cards is unfortunate and overstated the demand by 92,000.
The number released in error yesterday stated that an extra 125,000 medical cards were issued 'over and above the service plan projections.' The corrected figure was a much less startling figure of 33,000. While there is increased demand, this increase is to be expected in the current economic climate. It is to be welcomed that those who require assistance in accessing medical care can apply for these essential medical cards.
Medical cards and assistance to those on low incomes in accessing medical care is an essential component of our health services and must not come under undue attack. It is paramount that we do everything to protect this essential safeguard for those that need it. It is acknowledged that equitable access to primary care is essential for any health service to ensure early intervention and to relieve pressure on people presenting unnecessarily at local hospitals.
This will produce savings in the long term for our health service budget.
The serious situation facing the health budget is alarming but it is essential that every measure is taken to avoid cuts to frontline services affecting our most vulnerable citizens.
We all recognise the difficult economic situation the country faces, but a functioning society must ensure access to healthcare for all.
The unfortunate and inaccurate figures regarding medical cards issued yesterday in the HSE statement on health figures may have caused undue worry for those who depend on their services, and therefore today's clarification is to be welcomed.