Thursday, 26 June 2014
It seems that reality has bitten in respect of the health budget. Finally the Taoiseach and the Minister for Health, Deputy Reilly, have come to their senses and are now accepting what we all have known for many months, that the Government will not meet its targets for proposed cuts to the health budget. Last year, the Minister and his colleagues, particularly those in the Economic Management Council, EMC, imposed €666 million of cuts on the health budget for 2014. This was despite the fact that there had been a €200 million overspend in 2013 and that everyone knew that demand for services was on the increase. In fact, in total the Government agreed to a cut of over €1 billion in health spending for 2014. Health professionals warned that this could not be done without hurting patients. They told the Government that fewer staff could not treat more patients, that people would suffer and potentially lose their lives as a result of this decision but the Government refused to listen. It pressed on, regardless of the human cost and week after week, in hospitals and communities across this State, we have seen that cost. The cuts imposed included €133 million from the medical card budget which was why parents with chronically ill children had their cards so cruelly snatched from them. Now, the cat is out of the bag.