HSE may defer Fair Deal, GP payments
The HSE is considering the deferral of nursing home support payments under the Fair Deal scheme and of payments to GPs and other contractors, irishhealth.com has learned.
The health executive says these measures may be implemented if its financial position worsens further between now and the end of the year.
The measures are among a menu of cuts being considered by the HSE to ease its financial crisis before the end of the year.
The HSE has already decided to implement a deferral of staff travel and subsistence expense payments due in December until January at the earliest - a move that has led to an angry reaction from health service unions.
A HSE spokesperson told irishhealth.com that the HSE's board had recently considered proposals to partially defer in December Fair Deal payments and payments to contractors such as GPs and pharmacists under the Primary Care Reimbursement Scheme, which handles contractor payments under the medical card and other community schemes.
The spokesperson said the Fair Deal and PCRS payment deferrals had not been implemented at this stage, but may be implemented if required when the HSE's December financial position was fully assessed.
The HSE said a further proposal to defer payments to section 38 voluntary service providers, also considered by the HSE board at a recent meeting, had not yet been implemented but was under consideration for implementation if required.
The spokesperson stressed that the Fair Deal, PCRS and voluntary service provider payment deferral measures were not required at this stage.
It is believed the HSE proposal to defer Fair Deal payments would involve delaying monies due to be paid to private nursing homes to fund patients who have been approved for supports under the scheme.
Back in the spring, approvals for Fair Deal funding supports for nursing home care were temporarily suspended by the HSE after a major funding shortage was discovered in the scheme.
Approvals recommenced in June following a review of the scheme ordered by Health Minister James Reilly, which provided for the funding deficit to be met through savings in other areas, planned cuts in payments to private nursing homes and increased long-stay in patient charges.
At the end of September, however, the HSE reported that the Fair Deal scheme was €47 million over-budget.
Meanwhile, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) has called on the HSE to immediately honour its obligations, arising from employment contracts, and pay all outstanding expenses due to public health nurses, community nurses and other HSE staff.
It said the HSE's announcement to defer payment of travel and subsistence costs was made without any consultation.
"This demonstrates the failure of the HSE, at the highest level, to understand the everyday financial pressures now being faced by frontline staff, who are not high earners, in paying their own bills," the INMO said.
[Posted: Wed 30/11/2011]