Cabinet defers decisions on health cuts
The Cabinet has yet to consider proposals from the Department of Health on major cost-saving measures for the health service.
Meanwhile, the HSE board has indicated that even after implementing major cutbacks, hospitals will still face a deficit of €205 million this year.
It has emerged that the Cabinet has yet to consider a Department report which was to have been drawn up on the HSE's financial position, and which was due to have been discussed last week.
This report was in turn informed by a recent HSE review report on its finances.
The delay in making decisions on new health service cuts is believed to be due the difficulties caused by the issue of tackling the overtime and allowances bill in the health sector in a bid to reduce the HSE's massive deficit.
Health unions have said cutting overtime rates or allowances or freezing increments would be in breach of the Croke Park Agreement.
Minutes of the HSE board meeting held on June 8 state that a review of the HSE's financial position would be inputted into a paper being prepared by the Department of Health on HSE spending and savings measures for the Cabinet meeting of June 19.
The minutes, in a summary of the HSE's current financial position, also state that even after the delivery of 'rigorous cost containment plans', a residual projected deficit of approximately €205 million in acute hospital service was being projected.
The last performance report produced by the HSE, for late April, indicated that hospitals were then running up deficits of €106 million. The HSE as a whole is heading for a deficit of around €400 million to €500 million at the end of the year if further savings are not implemented.
At the end of April, the HSE's overall deficit stood at around €200 million.
The minutes also state that the HSE board was due to meet on the afternoon of June 19 to discuss the decisions made by the Cabinet and to prepare for their implementation by July 1.
However, a spokesman for Health Minister James Reilly told irishhealth.com that the Cabinet meeting of June 19 did not consider such a document on health service savings measures, nor was such a document due for consideration at today's Cabinet meeting.
He said discussions were continuing at various levels on how to deal with the HSE overspend and work was continuing 'on the design of proposals' to deal with the overrun issue.
Health Minister James Reilly has stated that before any decisions are made about cutting services, the issues related to overtime and premium payments of health staff needed to be considered.
The spokesman said a financial review of the HSE being carried out by outside expert Mark Ogden was continuing and the Department would later receive a full report from him.
Hospitals have already been told by the HSE to cut back on their activity levels in order to deal with their overrun.
They have also been told it it is vital they meet their trolley and waiting list targets as they address their financial deficits.
[Posted: Tue 26/06/2012]