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Budget blues - plus ca change?
[ by Niall Hunter, Editor www.irishhealth.com]
For a Government whose core aim is that everyone should have equal access to healthcare regardless of wallet size, it's got a funny way of showing it.
Perhaps we will see this New Jerusalem one day when universal health insurance and universal healthcare arrive sometime around 2016.
However, for the time being it's the same old same old as we clench our stomachs and digest the gory Budget health details. It's as if Mary Harney never went away, you know.
So what are we offered by James Reilly? Blood, sweat, tears, and perhaps some more tears, with the odd sliver of upbeat news thrown in to leave us clinging to some pathetic hope that one day things will get better and we won't be wishing anymore that Budget Days were duvet days.
Oh, and there was a huge broken promise, unfortunately, on the abolition of prescription charges.
This is essentially a continuation of a health tax on the poor, a continuation of the type of barrier to healthcare access that James Reilly often refers to.
Indeed, he referred to this quite a lot last year when Mary Harney originally introduced the prescription charge. Such a charge, he told us, was 'likely to reduce the use of necessary medicines, with possible harmful effects on health.'
James Reilly felt so strongly about this that on assuming his ministry in March he said he would abolish this iniquituous charge. Not strongly enough, obviously.
And not to mention, because we're too annoyed about it at this stage, the baffling 'kite-flying' the Minister indulged in last month with his 'fantasy' Draconian cuts.
Ok, so we mentioned it. What's that? It could have been much worse, could it?
Sorry for sounding ungrateful, but big deal. Did the Minister really think people were going to feel less angry because they thought the cuts could have been much worse? And how could they be any worse than they already are in any case?
And to compound the bad news on access to GP care, many of us will have to pay more for medicines following the upping of the Drug Payment Scheme threshold.
And yet again, many will pay more for health insurance as hospital bed charges are increased again in a bid to boost hospital income.
Except some of us won't be able to pay private insurance premia come 2012 and will throw ourselves at the mercy of a public system, that, despite some limited progress in reforming the way healthcare is provided, will continue to struggle to keep up with ever-increasing demand on an ever-reducing budget.
The jury is still out on whether James Reilly's initiatives to reduce pressure on A&Es and to cut waiting lists will lead to sustainable change for the better.
Despite the Minister's efforts, trolley numbers and treatment waiting lists remain stubbornly high, according to the most recent figures.
We may have to wait until next year to see if there has been sustainable reform in this area.
The message this week for the health service was grim - the 'Troika has spoken, so, basically, shut up'. It's a reality we may have no choice but to accept, but it's a pretty grim reality all the same.
Big cuts over the past three years, perhaps bigger cuts for the next three years and everyone pretty much charged through the nose for everything. Not a lot of hope or inspiration there.
Certainly, as a nation we had been living beyond our means, but we seem to be moving very swiftly from charvet shirts to sackcloth and ashes.
Or, as regards the health service, from a system that at best was just about getting by to one where there must be a question mark over its ability to continue to deliver basic care in many cases. This is notwithstanding the fact that some of the efficiencies and savings made were indeed necessary.
But recent health service cuts and those likely to happen between now and 2014 will mean that around one-fifth of our healthcare budget will have been lopped off over a six-year period. Some key staff have left and have not been replaced, with an obvious impact on service levels.
Can we build a sustainable health service on such a flimsy foundation? Can we provide a new universal health insurance system offering better access to everyone to the care they need when the Exchequer cupboard and everyone's wallets are bare?
Can we even afford to introduce free GP care for everyone, however welcome that would be? Will we be told in next year's Budget that the continued phasing in of this plan has been long-fingered?
Can we reform a system that is getting to the stage that there will soon be nothing much left standing for the Government to reform come 2014-15?
These are questions that James Reilly will be asked with increasing frequency as he learns the realities of 'Angola.'
|Peter 47 Posted: 13/12/2011 18:57|
I had almost finished a long list of where the latest budget cuts have driven me further down the poverty ladder, when the page went blank.
Changes to my household since "B" day :-
Inv Pension X 2 = no change !
Sorry that is a lie, winter fuel allowance is cut by 120 euro [ 6 weeks @ 20 euro]
Medical card to now COST 50 euro [ times 2 = 100 euro]
Prescription charge has now increased to refund only after 12 euro, so a loss of 1.50 euro on our previous 10 euro ceiling.
Home heating, road tax and transport fuel have also increased, so this will mean less heating in the future.
Luxury goods have increased by 2% VAT,,, tell that to the supermarkets. this is about another 4 euro per week.
When March comes around, I will have a rent review, will I benefit from a drop in income, NO, it is dependant on my weekly payment.
How can the HSE continue to pay top wages to consultants, when "medical procedures" are being stopped in many hospitals, are all these front line theater staff given the option of early retirement, and more pension than when they were working ?? How is that good finance ?? same goes for all those higher level managment types who were keeping the department top heavy, are we now paying them more for sitting at home doing nothing, compared to sitting in offices doing the Times crossword poorly ,,, at least we are saving on theit travel expenses !
If I can gain entry to a retirement home when I apply tomorrow, My 130.50 weekly Invalidity Payment will almost pay for one DAY in a home, isint that a great Idea, I will now cost yee taxpayers about 600 euro per week, compared to living at home,,, and no rent, food or heating to worry about.
Since November, I have joined up with a couple of local retirement groups, and started to visit the library, for several hours, to avail; of the internet and free heating for a couple of hours a day, it is just a pity Saturday and Sunday are not available ! It is down to going to bed at 11 O'clock and not getting up until 11 or 12 AM.
My own transport is a necessity as the town bus is not user friendly for wheelchairs, some of them can carru one, so if there are 2 waiting, someone has to wait for 45 minutes for the next one, which may already have the one space occupied.So much for free transport.
Can I swap the free travel for my heating allowance returned ???
Have a good Christmas, and stay warm.
|Anonymous Posted: 14/12/2011 11:46|
An appaling applaing situation Peter. Perhaps the 'troika' will arrange for the weather fairy to send 4 weeks less cold every year frok now on to fit in with the budget cuts and ensure people do not have to make a choice between heatign their home and feeding their family.
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