Press Release

Micheál Martin TD, Minister for Health and Children announces Health Estimate 2003

“Increase of €694 million in health spending will bring the total spend for 2003 to €8.9 billion – an increase of 9% in current spending”

The Minister for Health & Children, Micheál Martin TD today announced an increase of €694 million in health spending to bring the total spend for 2003 to €8.9 billion, including capital. This is a 9% increase in current spending year on year. Minister Martin said that in a difficult year the increase represents the Government´s commitment to the health service. While the increase is not as high as in recent years, this additional €694m demonstrates that this Government is determined to give health priority.

The spending figure for next year will be €5.4 billion higher (or 154%) than provided in 1997. The Minister points out that this extra investment over recent years has brought significant results. These include record levels of activity in the acute hospital system and a whole range of additional services provided in all the major programmes of care.

In regard to 2003 Estimates, the additional funding will provide for:

  • The completion over the Winter of the additional 709 beds programme in the acute hospitals; an extra €53 million next year will mean an overall investment package in 2002/03, including capital, in bed capacity of e118 million.
  • The Estimate also provides €31 million for the Treatment Purchase Fund, which will ensure that in excess of 7,000 people on waiting lists will be treated in 2003. This is in addition to €43 million for the Waiting List Initiative
  • An additional sum of €29 million is being allocated for cancer services. This investment will ensure that next year we will continue to address increasing demands in cancer services in areas such as oncology/haematology services, oncology drug treatments and the continuing development of symptomatic breast disease services.
  • The commencement of the Heart/Lung Transplant Programme in the Mater Hospital will be facilitated by the estimate
  • €26 million extra will be provided for the Acute Hospitals service.
  • Cardiovascular Strategy will receive an extra €7 million which includes cardiology posts.
  • Further funding of €3 million is being provided for renal and cardiac surgery.
  • A significant element of the increased funding will be the provision of €60 million towards the compensation payments to people who were infected with Hepatitis C or HIV.
  • Services for older people will benefit from an additional €15 million. €28 million extra will go towards disability services and €7.6 million will be provided for Mental Health. An increase of €2.7million is to be provided to tackle Adult homelessness.
  • In relation to childcare services, an additional €7.5 million is being provided, to include €1.5 million targeted at youth homelessness.
  • There is also provision of an additional €10 million for the development of primary care including GP Co-ops/Primary Care Units.
  • Further funding of €230 million is being made available to meet the increased cost of the GMS. This represents an increase of 31%. The Minister regrets that this specific Health Estimate envelope does not allow for the extension of medical cards. Management consultants have been appointed to examine the scheme including increased costs of drugs.
  • Given the escalation in costs of the Scheme (it has increased by 40% or €56 million since 2000), the Minister will be restructuring the Drugs Payments Scheme, which will involve an increase in the existing threshold and proposals will be finalised shortly
  • There will also be an increase in the income for public hospitals from charges raised by these hospitals from private beds; that increase will be 10% to give additional income of €15 million. This income goes towards supporting services in public hospitals and is part, therefore, of their budgets. Even with this increase, the cost of providing services to private patients in those hospitals is far greater than the income from the private insurance companies. In the major teaching hospitals, for example, it is estimated that the income from private beds represents less than half of the costs of treating private patients. In the interests of equity, it is Government policy to gradually eliminate the subsidy.
  • The Minister also said that capital funds of €514 million will be provided in 2003. This will facilitate further improvement of the health infrastructure. The capital provision for 2003 will allow for progress on projects including the following:
    • Our Lady´s Hospital for Sick Children – Theatres;
    • St Vincent´s Hospital, Elm Park – Phase I;
    • St James´s Hospital – Phase IH;
    • Cork University Hospital – Maternity Unit, A&E Department and Day Procedures Unit;
    • University College Hospital Galway – Phase II;
    • Naas General Hospital – Phases II and III;
    • James Connolly Memorial Hospital – Phase I;
    • St Joseph´s, Clonmel – Development;
    • Tullamore General Hospital – Phases I and II;
    • Portlaoise General Hospital – Phase;
    • Roscommon County Hospital – A&E Department;
    • Beaumont and Nenagh Hospitals – Acute Psychiatric Units;
    • Our Lady´s Hospital, Cashel – Step-down facility, facilities for patients with Alzheimer’s disease;
    • St Ita´s, Newcastle West – Dementia Unit;
    • St John´s Hospital, Enniscorthy – Unit for Older Persons.

Concluding, Minister Martin said, “Strong management of our economy by the Government gives us the best guarantee that the Health Strategy will be delivered on. Good fiscal responsibility will deliver the Strategy. The alternative would consign it to oblivion.